Category 5 Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines early Friday morning with sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts of up to 235 mph, making it one of strongest storms to ever hit the disaster-prone nation. Handicap International, which has been present in the Philippines since 1985, will send an emergency assessment team into the worst-affected areas.
"Our team has been trying to reach the affected areas this morning, but our lines of communication have been cut off,” says Edith Van Wijngaarden, Handicap International Philippines Country Director. “However, we will soon send an emergency assessment team to the hardest-hit areas in collaboration with other international NGOs starting with the city of Tacloban.”
In the past 20 years, natural disasters have killed more than 31,000 people in this country. Typhoons strike on a regular basis with powerful winds and heavy rains that destroy homes and trigger devastating floods and mudslides. Last year, Handicap International responded to Typhoon Bopha by distributing aid and identifying the most vulnerable victims, especially the disabled and the elderly, to ensure they received the aid and services they needed to recover.
“Our teams were already helping to evacuate people hit by the earthquake on Bohol Island on 15 October, which killed more than 140 people," Van Wijnaarden says. "The typhoon has dealt another blow to the Philippines. Our teams are ready to respond to this emergency.”
People with disabilities are at greater risk of injury and death during natural disasters because they are often not included in emergency response planning and may have mobility issues that prevent them from fleeing danger. Handicap International also helps vulnerable people prepare for natural disasters by sharing and disseminating disaster risk management training tools with government offices and local organizations.