Being in the Philippines during a small, tropical storm was an unpleasant experience, to say the least. That was 10 years ago, and while we were without power for 10 days and running water for just a few, it was nothing compared to what the Philippines gets on a regular basis.
This weekend, a super typhoon known locally as Lando (Lando System?) barreled its way through the Philippines, killing at least 16, injuring more, and displacing more than 60,000 people. The storm knocked over trees, homes, and power lines, causing power outages in nine provinces.
The streets in the Philippines are prone to flooding during short bursts of heavy rain. This storm system brought heavy rain for a long duration. Some homes were flooded up to the rooftops. Many people were in the middle of the harvest when the storm hit, so not only will rebuilding affect their homes, but their livelihoods as well. Flash flooding is feared for the Metro Manila area (which area has about 12 million people in an area the size of New York City).
Many of the towns North of Manila that were hit by torrential rain were “lulled into complacency” because the storm had move up and away from them, and did not strike those areas with its full power. However, just because the typhoon didn’t hit those areas head on, the rain it produced from even the edges of the typhoon drenched many villages, bringing floods many feet deep.
The Philippines is one of the most heavy-hit countries in the world when it comes to typhoons. They know very well what these kinds of storms can bring, and yet they still can become complacent. This complacency can be dangerous, especially considering the relative unpredictability of many natural disasters. Even the ones we can track, such as hurricanes, can shift without warning, or bring more rain than anticipated, such as Lando did in the Philippines.
Being prepared with escape plans, food, water, and communication are all vitally important. But it’s also important to prepare with an expectation that things can go downhill fast. For the people in the Philippines, I admit it is much more difficult for them to prepare for such things than for us. The way their cities and towns are laid out, flooding is a constant problem, and there is almost no way to keep that flood water out of their home. The best they can do is brace for impact and hope for the best.
Our infrastructure in the United States is better. Water can be soaked up by grass (lawns are virtually non-existent in the Philippines), and our drainage systems work pretty well. Of course, during any form of heavy rain, we may experience backed up drains and sewers. Bracing for storms involves gathering sandbags and other supplies that can help push back the floods.
Filipinos don’t have that luxury. We do. And we need to make sure we’re using our resources in ways that will protect us. Waiting until the last minute to buy emergency food for an oncoming storm can leave you empty handed. This happens all the time. A storm comes, and grocery store shelves go bare. Finding backup power sources may be more difficult than you think if you wait too long. Water is the same way.
While my heart goes out to those in the Philippines, my thoughts are also turned to us, here. We need to take the time to prepare before a storm comes our way. And remember, it could be more than just a super typhoon. Tornadoes, earthquakes, or even job loss or accidents could keep you from providing for yourself and your family.
And so, while the Philippines works on rebuilding after the Lando System blew through, it is my hope that we can take this time to prepare before the next big event comes rushing towards us. And for everyone in the Philippines, I wish you luck and success in your recovery. Kaya ninyo!
What do you do to prepare for disasters? Let us know in the comments!