Older people severely affected by Philippine Typhoon Bopha
By Caroline Dobbing and Sarah Marzouk
(c) Reuters HelpAge International is working with older people's organisations in the Philippines to help older people affected by Typhoon Bopha, the most powerful typhoon to hit the Mindanao province in decades.
Typhoon Bopha had top winds of 175 kph (110 mph) as it came ashore over the city of Baganga early on Tuesday. Millions of people were in the storm's path, many living in remote communities ill prepared to cope with such a disaster.
The devastating Typhoon has uprooted trees and blown away fragile houses. There have been reports of corrugated iron roofs of some buildings being carried through the air like "flying machetes".
The Civil Defence Office has confirmed at least 325 people are dead and another 379 missing. News reports put the number of people homeless between 180,000 and 200,000.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council says the Typhoon has affected more than 213,000 people, demolished houses and stranded people in two Mindanao regions and parts of the Visayas region. More than 179,000 people are in evacuation centres.
Older people particularly vulnerable
Among the dead are older people who could not escape the flash floods and others who were killed when trees fell on their fragile homes.
Older people's associations in some communities took steps to help older people, particularly those with mobility problems, so they could reach evacuation centres in time.
However, there are still thousands of older people living in remote areas. We know little about their situation as there is currently no way of communicating with them.
How we are helping affected older people
The UN Office for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) said that improved early warning systems in the Philippines had saved lives this time. But President Benigno Aquino said more needed to be done.
Godfred Paul, Senior Programme Manager, HelpAge International in East Asia and Pacific said:
"We are working with older people's associations in communities hit by the Typhoon. They have been trained to respond to disasters.
"Leaders of the associations made sure older people in their communities reached the evacuation centres safely and are providing updates on the situation as it develops.
"We are making plans with association leaders and staff from our Affiliate in the Philippines, COSE, to assess their immediate needs."
Most older people will need immediate relief in the form of food, water, essential basic items and medicines.
Planning immediate relief distribution
There is no electricity and roads have been cut off by uprooted trees, floods and landslides. This means staff on the ground are unable to travel to, or make contact with, affected communities.
The local government is expected to clear the roads tomorrow. This will enable our team to get to some of the villages to assess the damage. They will also meet with local leaders of older people's organisations and plan immediate relief distribution.
HelpAge International and COSE are fully committed to helping older people and their communities to recover and rebuild their lives and livelihoods.