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Volume 29, Issue 1

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Devastated Philippine Islands Struggle to Get Relief Efforts Underway

Written by  DRJ Monday, 18 November 2013 22:46

When Typhoon Haiyan raged through the Philippine Islands on Nov. 8, massive devastation, loss of life and chaotic conditions were left in its wake. The typhoon hit the islands with sustained winds of more than 160 miles per hour, with gusts reaching record levels.

An estimated 11 million people have been affected by the typhoon, according to the United Nations, and the death toll has climbed above 2,300. More deaths are expected as rescuers begin to reach remote areas.

Winds leveled tens of thousands of homes throughout the region. Storm surges were reported to have traveled up to a mile inland, causing massive damage and casualties.

Areas which suffered the most devastation include Leyte, including its capital, Tacloban, and Guiuan on the island of Samar. Widespread damage occurred throughout other provinces as well.

Thousands of people continue to swarm Tacloban's damaged airport, desperate to leave or to get treatment at a makeshift medical center. A few days after the typhoon, the airport was able to begin receiving flights around the clock. Planes are bringing manpower and aide, mostly consisting of rice, energy biscuits and water. Supplies are finding their way into the more accessible areas, but reports say those in more remote areas are in extreme danger.

In a previously published statement, President Benigno S. Aquinno III, said, "We know the gravity of our countrymen's suffering, and we know that, now more than ever, all of us are called on to do whatever we can to help alleviate our countrymen's suffering.”

Hundreds of bodies have been lying in the open since Haiyan struck. This week, authorities began clearing them and performing mass burials. While this is non-traditional for this mostly Catholic population, authorities say it is imperative it be done to limit the spread of disease and reduce the stench taking over the area. Health experts have said the spread of infectious diseases is reaching a peak danger in the worst-affected areas. To aid in identifying bodies in the future, DNA samples and photographs were taken prior to burial.

A huge lack of logistic support and manpower has severely curtailed rescue efforts and the distribution of food and water. Safe shelter is extremely hard to find, with most survivors remaining in the open. Most standing buildings have missing or damaged roofs, allowing rain – which is occurring frequently – to pour in.

In the town of Daanbantayan, nine-tenths of homes were damaged or destroyed. Much of the infrastructure throughout the islands has been destroyed, including roads, airports and communications.

Finding manpower to aid in rescue and relief efforts has been difficult. In Palo in Leyte province, only 34 of 983 local policemen reported to duty in the first few days after the storm. In Tacloban, city administrator Tecson Lim has said 70 percent of the city’s 220,000 people are in need of emergency assistance, and only 70 of the city’s 2,700 employees are able to report to work.

The U.S.S. George Washington, an aircraft carrier, arrived on Thursday and is set off the Coast of Samar Island to assess damage and provide supplies. The carrier brings 21 helicopters to the area, to help reach the most remote parts of the islands. More than 5,000 crew members will expand relief operations and help distribute supplies.

Other countries are also sending aide or pledging funds, including United Kingdom, Asia, Australia, China, Europe, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and more.

Early estimates of the economic cost are $15 billion. In a more developed country, the amount would climb much higher, but Haiyan hit some of the poorest regions of the country.

While business continuity planners rarely deal with devastation of this magnitude, there are lessons to be learned from this event. Critical problems with the rescue and recovery include poor communication, lack of leadership, weak infrastructure elements, lack of manpower and inadequate supplies to maintain human survival in the critical days after the incident.

These lessons can be applied to any type of interruption and are components that can be examined now and ensured they are implemented properly in your organization, community or corporation.