Oxfam responder, April Bulanadi, updates today from Cagayan: “What I thought was a river in Iguig town turned out to be a completely submerged rice field. The storm kept battering Cagayan hours after landfall. While I was able to see some farmers desperately harvesting crops the day before the storm hit, it was clear many were not able to do so. This is heartbreaking because it was supposed to be harvest season next month. This will have devastating impacts on small farmers, many of whom are still recovering from Typhoon Haima in 2016.”
Oxfam has joined the Citizens' Disaster Response Center, and Cagayan Valley Disaster Response Center to provide on-site situational updates and conduct rapid needs assessments of areas impacted by Typhoon Mangkhut. They have been in Tuguegarao City in Cagayan since Wednesday and were able to assess impacts of the typhoon starting Saturday, after Typhoon Mangkhut had made landfall in Baggao, Cagayan. The team has been assessing damages and needs in towns in the northern coastal area of Cagayan, towns along the Cagayan River, and in the neighboring province of Isabela. Cagayan, Isabela, Kalinga, and Apayao seem to be some of the worst hit regions at this point, with significant damage to shelter, infrastructure, and agriculture.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said a total of 1.5 million farmers and over 100,000 fisherfolk could be affected by the typhoon. Rice could suffer losses amounting to PhP 3.6 billion on a moderate estimate, or up to PhP 7.9 billion in a worst-case scenario. Corn crops could suffer PhP 2.7 billion in losses under moderate conditions, or up to PhP 3.1 billion.
Rains and landslides damaged critical infrastructure like roads and bridges, making assessment difficult in some areas. “The bridge in Sta. Barbara Piat in Cagayan, which connects to other towns in Cagayan, is impassable. There are significant logistics challenges to delivering immediate support when roads, powers lines, and cell sites are down”, says Abello-Bulanadi.
William Quillopo, who lives in a coastal community in Aparri, Cagayan, showed Oxfam the spot where his house used to stand. When asked Abello-Bulanadi if he was able to save any of his possessions, Quillopo narrates: “I was not able to save anything. Not a single thing.” He said that Super Typhoon Mangkhut is much stronger than Typhoon Haima, which also hit his community in 2016.
As of today, September 16, the full extent of damages has yet to be determined, as many areas especially in the Cordillera Administrative Region are still unreachable. Mikhail Valle, Executive Director of CDRC confirmed that: “It will take a few more days to get a more comprehensive picture because floods, siltation and mud from landslides, and storm debris are limiting access.”
Based on the results of initial assessments, the identified immediate needs are food; safe water; shelter repair and cleaning materials, hygiene kits; multipurpose cash-based interventions; and sources of income and livelihoods. Thousands of evacuees are currently staying inside churches and schools and do not have access to food, safe water, and sanitation.
Oxfam and CDRC are currently providing jerrycans as water containers, and are also slated to distribute water kits on Tuesday, September 18. Survivors have reported to Oxfam that families in some evacuation centers can only drink from handpumps which are a kilometre away. Some have brought bottled water but supply is limited. Oxfam is also ready to distribute shelter repair materials, like ropes, tarpaulins, and nails.
According to Oxfam Country Director, Maria Rosario Felizco: “Addressing immediate needs are crucial to ensure the immediate safety and dignity of survivors; thus we are prioritizing the distribution of water and shelter materials. But we must also anticipate that the survivors of Typhoon Mangkut, especially small fishers and farmers who have lost their livelihoods, will need support far beyond the first few days of this response.”