Typhoon damages 3,000 families’ homes in PhilippinesIn this photo taken by Tristan John Cabrera, Unbound’s regional reporter in the Philippines, residents in San Mateo Rizal walk through flooded streets.
The second strong storm to slam the Philippines this month damaged or destroyed the homes of an estimated 3,000 families served by Unbound, forcing many to flee to evacuation centers despite risks posed by the coronavirus.
Typhoon Vamco, known locally as Ulysses, packed high winds and heavy rains as it swept through the main island of Luzon Wednesday and Thursday. News reports said the storm brought the worst flooding in years to Manila and nearby areas.
Sadly, the 36-year-old father of a sponsored child was killed after being swept away in a strong river current while trying to secure the family’s goats, Angelina Bermas, the Unbound Legazpi program coordinator, reported. It was the second storm-related fatality in the Unbound Legazpi community in recent weeks. A 5-year-old girl was killed and her mother and sister were missing after being swept away in a strong current of floodwaters and mudflow from Typhoon Goni.
Vamco hit on the heels of Goni, which was the world’s strongest storm this year. Goni, known locally as Rolly, displaced about 1,100 families served by Unbound, mostly in the Bicol region.
“We still haven’t recovered yet from Super Typhoon Rolly and two other typhoons in October, and here we are again facing another typhoon bringing torrential rains in Central and Southern Luzon with strong winds,” Tristan John Cabrera, Unbound’s regional reporter in the Philippines, said.
A man in San Mateo Rizal wades through floodwaters that nearly reach the rooftops of buildings.
Evacuations add to COVID-19 worries
Staff and volunteer rescue teams of fathers in the Unbound program assisted families stranded in their homes. The rescue teams are trained in disaster response and have boats, life jackets and other equipment for use in emergencies.
Floodwater was really terrible. We roamed around to nearby flooded communities using a boat and we found out that some sponsored families didn’t like to go to the evacuation center because they are afraid of getting COVID-19 virus.
— Malou Navio, Association of Philippine Projects director
The storm adds to the challenges of fighting the COVID-19 and economic crises and poses risks of diseases from exposure to floodwaters.
One youth in the Unbound program based in Manila said that her family sought shelter in an outdoor covered courtyard being used as an evacuation center after local officials warned of flooding from a nearby river.
Katrina, a youth in the Unbound Manila program, is pictured at an evacuation center where her family fled after local officials issued a flood warning for her community. Conditions were crowded at the outdoor covered courtyard converted into a temporary shelter.
“We don’t know if we still have our house standing there, knowing that the current of the river is strong and the mud would definitely ruin our house,” the youth, Katrina, said, adding that the timeline for her family’s return home was uncertain. “We need to clean and fix our house first so that it will be safe for us to stay there again.”
Unbound has provided more than $2.4 million in COVID-19 response funds for families around the world, including in the Philippines. In addition, Unbound has sent more than $230,000 for storm relief this year to programs in the Philippines and Mexico, and is looking to provide another $100,000 in storm relief for families in the Philippines and in Central America, which got hit hard by Hurricane Eta in early November.
What you can do
- Make sure your contact information is updated. In times of natural disaster, we notify sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously impacted, so keeping your information updated is important.
- Pray. The Unbound community holds all those affected and those assisting with relief efforts in our thoughts and prayers.
- Donate to Disaster Response. Unbound’s Disaster Response fund provides assistance to families in the aftermath of events like earthquakes, severe storms, fires and health emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic.