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The joint assessment teams of Oxfam and its partner, Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC), witnessed the destructive force of Ompong, known internationally as Super Typhoon Mangkhut. The teams have been deployed to Cagayan since Wednesday to provide on-site situational updates and conduct rapid needs assessments. The community-led disaster preparedness committees of CDRC in Cagayan have been activated.
Ompong made landfall in Baggao, Cagayan at 1:40AM (PHT), bringing with it high winds and nonstop torrential rains. It is currently heading towards Apayao and Ilocos Norte in northern Luzon. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) estimates that at least 5 million people who live in the projected path of the storm will be affected.
Oxfam responder, April Abello-Bulanadi, sent an update at 5:07 AM from Tuguegerao City, Cagayan: “The situation is very bad. The winds are howling and we can feel the destructive force of Ompong. The roof of the hotel where the response team convened has been blown away. We are on the third floor. The walls and ceiling are shaking. It has been raining nonstop. We are preparing to assess the areas near the Cagayan river, the coasts of northern Cagayan, and north Isabela.” Blackouts and intermittent cell signal issues were also reported. The greatest reported damages so far involve infrastructure, agricultural crops, and houses.
Oxfam and partners have relief items at the ready. Oxfam will also be joining the assessment and response teams of local partners, including Humanitarian Response Consortium (HRC), over the coming days.
Maria Rosario Felizco, Country Director of Oxfam in the Philippines, said that: “We are concerned about Ompong’s impact on lives and livelihoods, especially those within the eye of the storm. They will be urgently needing life-saving access to food, safe water, shelter, and sanitation facilities. The communities will need support during this time of great need. Oxfam and our partners are ready to support the government. We will prioritize addressing the needs of women and girls throughout the emergency response.”
The Philippine government reports that they have been taking a dual bottom-up and top-down approach to preparations, with the response escalating to higher levels of government as local capacities are exceeded. Felizco said, “We see the efforts of the local government units affected to coordinate with the national government. We look to their continued and sustained leadership. Oxfam will coordinate closely with the government and other responders to ensure the immediate needs of survivors are addressed effectively.”
Ompong is the 15th storm to hit the Philippines this year and, so far, the strongest for 2018. An average of 20 typhoons hit the country each year. “What we are also seeing now with extreme weather events like Ompong is that climate change is not a phenomenon that is far into the future. We need to take urgent action to ensure that communities most vulnerable to climate change impacts are able to adapt; and government plans and programs should be informed by an understanding of climate change,” Felizco said.