Update Dec. 6, 2014:
Typhoon Hagupit, which means "lash" in the Philippine language of Tagalog, made landfall in the east-central Philippines Saturday. Legazpi City declared a state of calamity with storm surges as high as a two-story building, said Tristan John Cabrera, communications liaison for Unbound in the Philippines. Unbound serves families in the Legazpi area, and we will provide updates as more information becomes available.
Hagupit was downgraded from "super typhoon" status but remained a strong storm when it made landfall, packing sustained winds of 125 mph, the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane. Donations for Unbound's Disaster Response will be needed to assist families in the storm's path.
As Super Typhoon Hagupit bears down on the Philippines, Unbound teams are getting ready to assist families in our programs should the storm strike their communities.
"All eyes and ears are on the news but our hearts, minds and souls are constantly whispering to God to spare us from the threat," said Malou Navio, coordinator of Unbound's Antipolo program based in metro Manila.
According to news reports, the typhoon was on a path to make landfall Saturday afternoon or evening Philippine time. The Philippines is 14 hours ahead of U.S. Central time.
The Philippine weather agency, PAGASA, issued public storm warning signals for areas from southeastern Luzon in the north through the Visayas region in the central part of the island nation to northeastern parts of Mindanao in the south.
More than 19 million people could be affected by cyclone-force winds from the storm, the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System said on its website. The GDACS is a joint effort of the United Nations and European Commission.
Flooding is also a major concern, especially if the storm moves slowly and dumps significant amounts of rainfall across parts of the islands.
Unbound in the Philippines serves 46,722 children, youth and elders and their families.
Forecasts showed the storm making landfall in the central Visayas region, threatening areas devastated last year by Super Typhoon Haiyan. More than 7,000 people died in Haiyan and more than 4 million were left homeless.
While there were no deaths among children, youth or elders in the Unbound program, hundreds of families saw their homes damaged or destroyed. Fishermen and farmers were affected by damage to crops and fishing boats.
Subsequent typhoons this year resulted in further losses and more homes and livelihoods to rebuild. Donations for Unbound's Disaster Response are critical at this time.
Tristan John Cabrera, Unbound's communications liaison in the Philippines, said Hagupit, known as Ruby in the Philippines, could potentially hit Unbound communities in the provinces of Albay, Iloilo and Aklan, which were impacted by Haiyan.
A concern in Albay, where Unbound's Legazpi program is located, is that the storm could trigger a flow of mud, rocks, volcanic material and other debris from the Mayon Volcano. The volcano has been spewing lava and other molten material in recent months. Families living within the 6-kilometer danger zone of Mayon were already in evacuation centers because of the volcanic activity and will remain there through the storm, Cabrera said.
Classes for students at all levels were suspended in the Visayas region Friday as governments, NGOs and families prepared for the storm. Unbound's Legazpi team met early Friday to go over disaster response plans.
In Unbound's Antipolo program, disaster response teams mobilized, including the ERPATs, a group of fathers of sponsored children who are trained and experienced in assisting during typhoons.
Risa Verena, Unbound's Manila program coordinator, summed up the thoughts of many as Hagupit approaches.
"Let us continue to pray that Typhoon Ruby or Hagupit will be more gentle to the Philippines and neighboring countries, and may she change her directions and concentrations," Verena said.
Your donations to Disaster Response help Unbound with relief and rebuilding efforts when natural disasters strike.