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Red Cross Responds as Typhoon Morakot Cuts Across East Asia
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By Patrick Fuller, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
August 10, 2009

Typhoon Morakot has made landfall on China’s south east coast having cut a swathe of destruction across the northern Philippines and Taiwan. The most severe storm to have hit China’s coast this year, Morakot arrived in Fujian Province on August 9 with wind speeds exceeding 100 miles an hour.

In Fujian, the Red Cross is distributing emergency supplies to 5,000 families. Relief items such as towels, flip-flop sandals, cutlery and hygiene kits are badly needed by the thousands of people who have been given temporary shelter in municipal buildings. In neighboring Zhejiang province, where at least one child was reported killed in a collapsed house, the Red Cross is working to provide similar support to families in need.

Early warning by SMS

The low loss of life in China was largely thanks to good preparedness measures taken well ahead of the advancing typhoon. Close to a million people in the two provinces were evacuated by local authorities - supported by the Red Cross. Among other measures, 8 million SMS messages were sent to residents’ mobile phones as part of the early warning system.

“There is very good contingency planning in place, especially in the more urban areas, but the weaknesses remain in more rural areas, where protecting communities is a challenge in the face of such threats as landslides,” says Qinghui Gu, Regional Disaster Management Coordinator for the Red Cross in China.

Morakot’s trajectory could result in heavier rainfall for more vulnerable communities further inland.

“We’ve been focused on community based disaster preparedness projects in some of these areas in recent years,” says Gu. ”The evidence shows that we need to step up this work as climate change is bringing more unpredictable hazards with greater frequency.”

Eight feet of rain

Morakot also brought torrential rains to parts of central, southern and eastern Taiwan leaving 7 dead and 46 missing. The area was deluged with nearly 100 inches of rainfall.

The Red Cross mobilized more than 100 employees and volunteers, along with 11 rescue boats and 5 vehicles to work alongside rescue crews in affected areas of Pingdong, Kaohsiung and Tainan counties.

The Red Cross was well prepared to respond and mobilized relief items from disaster preparedness warehouses, which were distributed to people in temporary shelters in Taidong and Chiayi counties. Food, bedding and family hygiene kits were provided to more than 2,000 people.

Philippines: 83,000 people affected

Morakot’s trail of destruction began in the Philippines, killing 21 people and affecting approximately 83,000 more as floods and landslides destroyed bridges stranding thousands of motorists. Known locally as ‘Kiko’, the Typhoon triggered flooding and landslides in several areas of Luzon province.

A landslide in Caranglan in Nueva Ecija, led to the closure of the national highway to traffic for almost 24 hours. The heavy rains also triggered flooding on the slopes of Mt. Pinatubo, killing four people who were climbing the volcano.

More than 100 Red Cross employees and volunteers in Zambales and Olongapo were mobilized to take part in search and rescue operations, and the Red Cross has provided meals to more than 3,000 stranded individuals staying in temporary accommodations.

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