Saturday, November 23, 2013

INFORMATIVE - History Repeating - The Real Picture: Part II

This article is a follow-up to our previous article, History Repeating - The Real Picture. Please read that article first if you haven't already.

The phenomenally-sized Typhoon Haiyan which hit The Philippines in early November wreaked considerable havoc, as we discussed in the previous article, leading to massive loss of life, missing persons, food shortages, clean water shortages, mass evacuation and eventually looting, excessive criminal activity and botched aid efforts. In this article we discuss how the country now stands a fortnight post-event. As we mentioned in the last article, this sort of event - while horrific - can be learned from by those able to observe it from a distance. If a significant disaster were to hit your own neighbourhood, then studying the events in The Philippines will help you learn what to expect.


So what has happened in the longer-scale aftermath?

Firstly, the devastation was so large-scale that relief efforts have not managed to make it all the way through. The storm surge left flooding as high as 5 meters (17 feet), moving rapidly enough to sweep away cars, houses and huge amounts of debris.

Particularly affected by the aid shortage are the more remote, rural areas of the country due to the inaccessibility resulting from storm damage and low population density meaning less local aid.


In addition to this, the local power companies predict that they will be unable to restore power until Christmas Eve, nearly two months after the disaster first struck. This has long-term ramifications such as the shutdown of sewage treatment plants and reduction in efficacy of hospitals in a nation that has reported over 12,500 individuals injured by the typhoon and over 4,200 dead.

Searches are still underway to locate more than 1,100 people that are still reported as missing since the event, and given the rate that they're still finding bodies amongst the debris, that number will shrink as cleanup efforts continue.


Over 3,000,000 people - all needing food, water and shelter - have been displaced due to the storms damage and after-effects, over 360,000 of which are pregnant or lactating mothers.

Disease is continuing to spread rapidly, with Tetanus and waterborne illness outbreaks occurring across the country. Aid stations are still being set up and operated, but staff and resources are easily outnumbered.


The cramped conditions of the aid centers is leading to other issues, such as respiratory tract infections and pneumonia. Also prevalent is the need for psychological aid to help the civilians deal with the trauma of losing their homes, loved ones and livelihoods. This aid, however, is of too low importance, comparatively, to get much attention.

Outside of the aid situation, however, is a much more grim story, with streets being dotted with police checkpoints in order to attempt to quell the massive amounts of looting ravaging the country.


Eight people were crushed to death during a large-scale raid of a food storage facility by looters attempting to get rice to feed themselves and their families. The desperation led to violence and the violence led to deaths. Still the looters managed to get away with over 33,000 large sacks of rice, and other, similar, events have tarnished the country in the wake of the event.


Locals have even resorted to digging up mains water pips in an attempt to procure clean water to drink, leading to large-scale water distribution crisis.

But it is not just food warehouses that are being raided. Even the large, retail shopping centers have become targets by looters who are taking advantage of the crisis and taking unessential items such as jewelry and electronics, perhaps in an attempt to use them as bartering tools to get food and clothing.

"When survivors (of a disaster) feel they are confronting 'absolute chaos' their perception of what is permissible can change. There’s no infrastructure, no authority and no regulation. Everyone fends for themselves." - Prof Daniel J. Kruger

When aid arrives, little distribution happens and the food is simply taken by the crowds that gather. Away from aid centers, in populated areas unaffected by the typhoon, residents are being robbed at gunpoint in their own homes by desperate people looking for food. The looters will simply kick in people's front door, or break through a window, and rob a family of their food at gunpoint.


“There are armed thieves going about. If they know that you have food stored away, they will force their way into your house and rob you at gunpoint. We're helpless here. We are so few and they are so many.” - Tacloban resident

While it looks like the aid will triumph over the chaos at this point, it is impossible to tell at this point how many will have died or had their lives ruined in the process of it reaching them. The only way that it has managed to happen at all has been due to the overwhelmingly high donations from other countries. If it wasn't for that money coming from outside, and the manpower, and the resources, then the current state of the Philippines would be substantially different to the picture we see now.


So what happens when something like this happens and no help comes? That's up to you, the people.

- CumQuaT

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