DESPITE the difficulties and perils, the disaster response teams of Operation Blessing Philippines, the humanitarian arm of CBN Asia, have already entered and have set bases in the four provinces worst hit by super typhoon Yolanda.
The Operation Blessing team confirmed television footages and newspaper acounts on the massive devastation caused by Yolanda, describing the damage to life, property, infrastructure and livelihood as unprecented.
“The extent of super typhoon Yolanda’s damage is nothing that the Philippines has ever experienced,” said Dr. Kim Pascual, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Operation Blessing Philippines.
She adds that while Philippines has experienced countless natural disasters in the past, nothing has prepared the country for the catastrophic effects of this super typhoon.
Latest death toll reported by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is now at is now at 2,275 with more than 3,500 wounded and hundreds more still missing.
Reports estimate the economic impact of the super typhoon as somewhere between $12 to $14 billion with major public infrastructures such as roads, schools and government buildings almost wiped out.
As of yesterday, Operation Blessing has already set up base in the critical areas of Tacloban, Leyte; Guiuan, Samar ; Iloilo and Coron, Palawan.
“These are four of the areas hardest hit by the multiple landfalls of Yolanda. Despite the insurmountable logistical challenges that we face, we need to act and go where we are needed so we can be a blessing to those who have lost so much,” Dr. Kim adds.
According to the report of the Operation Blessing team in Tacloban, the situation remains chaotic as many non-government organizations (NGOs) are being held at the town hall because of security threats. New People’s Army (NPA) troops are reportedly hijacking vehicles loaded with relief goods. This threat and the torrential rains, notwithstanding, the Operation Blessing team is now on ground with 3,000 packs of relief goods donated by Operation Blessing partners in Davao City and 1,200 packs of relief goods donated by Korean nationals. Part of the relief goods will be distributed to other towns in Leyte which are equally badly hit by the typhoon but have not received aid from the government and other NGOs.
The Operation Blessing team brings with them two days worth of medicines for the planned medical mission. Another Operation Blessing team will be travelling tomorrow to distribute relief goods in Ormoc and other towns.
Operation Blessing also reached Guiuan, Samar, the first town to experience Yolanda’s fury, last night after a grueling 36-hour land trip. Guiuan residents were overjoyed in seeing the Operation Blessing teamwhich was the first humanitarian group that has entered their town after the devastation brought by Yolanda.
“Almost 90% of the infrastructures, including the town hall and hospitals, were destroyed. There is no electricity, no food and no water. The closest place where residents could get food is an another town 5-hours away. The good thing here is that there is no flood and the peace and order situation is under control,” Dr. Kim said.
The Operation Blessing team has already distributed relief goods to 75 families in Barangay Poblacion and has established a tent and a vehicle van as the local base camp. SATPHONE has been transported as communication lines are still down.
In Iloilo, the Operation Blessing team has set up a base camp in the towns of Sara and Estancia and coordination with local partners has been underway to launch relief efforts in the province as soon as the aid arrives.
“The first batch of the team came four days ago and has been visiting northern towns to come up with situational assessment reports. Another batch came today to help out and look for more areas to be served outside of Iloilo to include the provinces of Roxas, Aklan and Antique,” explains Dr. Kim.
Boxes of medicines are already on the way to be used by local volunteer doctors in the medical mission that will be launched as soon as possible.
Yesterday, the Operation Blessing team arrived and set base in Coron, Palawan with relief goods transported via a private plane offered for free. The team immediately coordinated with the local government and churches for an efficient and systematic distribution of the relief goods.
The Operation Blessing is also preparing to move in to northern parts of the province, including Daanbantayan town and Bantayan Island, where Yolanda’s toppling winds made relief efforts a challenge. Medical mission will be held on Tuesday in Bantayan Island.
“Our teams report the extent of damage not just on life and property but more importantly on the spirits of our countrymen. Images of desperation, hopelessness, and despair are what our teams encounter each day. These images all the more motivate us to reach out and do more,” Dr. Kim said.
Dr. Kim expressed appreciation to the generous donors and partners of Operation Blessing as she appealed for more help and support to be able to serve more people who are now in desperate conditions.
To know more about Operation Blessing Foundation Philippines, visit www.obphil.com or this page http://obphil.com/v2/page/p/visayas-needs-your-help.
More updates of the relief mission are found in www.obphil.com/yolanda, www.facebook.com/obphil and www.twitter.com/obphil.