UN lauds disaster preparedness

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Workers in Baguio City clear the road made impassable by fallen trees. THOM PICAÑA

Workers in Baguio City clear the road made impassable by fallen trees. THOM PICAÑA

The United Nations on Tuesday lauded the Philippine government’s preparedness for
Typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu) that minimized the number of both casualties and affected communities compared to past typhoons that befell the country.

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Although the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) expressed concern for children stranded in remote areas, the disaster risk reduction arm of the international organization credited the Philippine government’s preparedness program for minimizing the typhoon’s damage to life and property.

A statement from the Unicef and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said the country’s preparedness strategy “paid off.”

“The communication of early warnings in the Philippines has improved significantly since Typhoon Haiyan [Yolanda] claimed over 6,000 lives in November 2013. Last December, major loss of life was averted by large-scale evacuations in the face of Typhoon Hagupit,” Margareta Wahlstrom, head of the UNISDR, said.

This weekend, as Lando ravaged parts of northeastern Luzon, Wahlstrom noted that government agencies have been “successful” in reducing loss of life “ through the effective communication of early warnings and organizing targeted evacuations in the areas most affected by Typhoon Koppu.”

She particularly noted as “important” President Benigno Aquino 3rd addressing the nation on Friday to alert the population about the typhoon, a Category 4 hurricane in the United States.

Wahlstrom also noted the roles by weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronimcal Services Administration (Pagasa) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in bringing regular updates to the public.

She said the updates helped local governments, the private sector and the Red Cross in coordinating their response to the typhoon.

Sendai Framework
As a storm-prone country, the Philippines could share its expertise in disaster risk management with other countries trying to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction that was adopted in March this year “as a global blueprint for reducing disaster losses.”

The Sendai Framework is a 15-year voluntary but non-binding agreement that recognizes the state should take a primary role in reducing disaster risk but also pushes local governments, the private sector and other stakeholders to share in the responsibility.

It aims for “the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.”

Replenishing supplies
Meanwhile, Unicef is appealing for $2.8 million to replenish its supplies to respond to the needs of Lando victims.

Even as it recognized the Philippine government’s “early action” in preemptive evacuation and widespread public information that minimized the damage caused by the typhoon, it said the government already activated its emergency preparedness measures days before the typhoon struck the country.

It emphasized that in any kinds of disasters, “children are the most vulnerable.”

Government records said more than 65,000 people have been evacuated because of Lando while more than 12,125 families are staying in 136 evacuation centers.

Assessments will continue in the coming week to confirm numbers and the full extent of the typhoon’s impact, Unicef said.

“Unicef’s first priority is to ensure children are safe and protected. Following a typhoon, children face risks from contaminated water sources, lack of food, epidemics such as cholera, hypothermia, diarrhea and pneumonia,” Unicef Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander said.

Typhoon Lando is the 12th tropical cyclone to enter the Philippines this year.
Another typhoon, Champi, is already looming over the country.

The Philippines usually suffers from 20 typhoons each year.

This year is predicted to bring more intense typhoons as a result of El Niño.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a regional statement on El Niño and its potential impact on Pacific islands, noting that the weather phenomenon “will continue to have a significant influence on the climate and ocean in most parts of the Pacific islands region for the remainder of 2015 and much of 2016.”

The organization noted that the “risk of a typhoon in the western and central north Pacific is above normal for the remainder of 2015,” saying the islands will have a high risk of “serious effects from some combination of high winds, storm surges, large waves, and/or extreme rainfall associated with a typhoon.”

The WMO said tropical cyclone numbers “are expected to be elevated for a majority of the Pacific island countries close to or east of the International Date Line, and their tracks may be less predictable.”

It noted that “drier than normal conditions are already being experienced in parts of the southwest Pacific and north Pacific.”

“These conditions are likely to continue for several months. It is likely that some of these locations will experience a prolonged drought in the year ahead. In contrast, above normal rainfall is likely to continue in the central equatorial Pacific.”

Changes in sea level are also likely to occur, as well as a heightened risk of coral bleaching, and impacts on drinking water supplies.

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