Mindanao, Philippines – A week after Typhoon Bopha slammed into the southern Philippines, its deadly effects continue to plague the region with nearly 700 people dead and 900 missing.
Survivors have been left with nothing other than tales of horror, as the storm’s 175-kph winds and raging rainwater washed away island residents and their homes. Search-and-rescue operations are underway for the missing, but many areas remain unreachable.
Out of more than 302,500 people displaced, nearly 133,900 are now packed into 172 evacuation centres. What little aid getting through is being fought over by survivors.
On Monday, the Philippines and the United Nations launched a $65m global appeal to help victims of Bopha.
According to Luiza Carvalho, the country officer for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the funds would initially help 480,000 people in the worst-hit areas.
Rapid needs assessments indicate a dire shortage of water, food, shelter, medicines, and generators in the areas of Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino – who recently declared a state of national calamity to allow for price controls on basic commodities and the quick release of emergency funds – said the government is doing everything it can to prevent the spread of disease in evacuation centres.
At the same time, authorities said they’re ready to file criminal charges against local officials who neglected their duties during the devastation Bopha wrought.
The government said it aims to begin rebuilding infrastructure damaged by the typhoon this week.
Benito Ramos, the head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said 647 bodies had been found and 900 people were still missing, including hundreds of fishermen.
Rescuers continued searching for bodies or signs of life under tonnes of fallen trees and boulders in the worst-hit town of New Bataan, in the Compostela Valley.
“We had a good livelihood going. Now, what will we do with our land? Nothing will grow on it. Our coconut trees all were uprooted,” said survivor Buboy Francisco.
Typhoons are rare in this part of the country, and people are trying to make do as best they can, even putting salvaged items from the debris up for sale to earn money.