The Philippine archipelago expects around 20 typhoons each year. Although this number is not attained in 2012, it received two worst typhoon killing hundreds and destroying millions worth of properties. The year was welcomed by typhoon Sendong affecting Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City, and closed by typhoon Pablo – Bopha affecting Cateel and New Bataan.
Typhoon Pablo affects most of the Philippine archipelago. The center of its damage is in Davao Oriental and Compostella Valley provinces. These provinces barely receives strong typhoon in recorded history. The municipality of Cateel, Davao Oriental was the center of Pablo’s wind. While the municipality of New Bataan, Compostella Valley was heavily struck by flood and landslides. Many adjacent municipalities were damaged at various degree.
I am part of a team sent by Southern Philippines Medical Center to Cateel, Davao Oriental. The team is composed of five resident doctors from different departments with one nurse. Our written order was to provide medical assistance in Cateel, verbal order to provide assistance in Cateel and Boston, while on site we were asked to provide assistance to Cateel, Boston and Bagangga. All are municipalities of Davao Oriental.
Traveling to our site, we had to take the Surigao del Sur – Davao Oriental route as these three towns are isolated from the rest of Davao Oriental.
Here I will just note what I experience:
Entering the town of Boston we noted fallen coconut like matchstick scattered on the ground. Those that stands has one-side fronds or like a close umbrella (This is the view of the agricultural part of the three towns we visited). Some areas had decapitated coconut trees. Many small communities were demolished to the ground.
The municipality of Cateel suffered the most. It is safe to say that at least 100% of the houses and buildings were 80-100% damaged. Even concrete building did not make it against the strong wind. Many locals would say they saw the wind for the first time as white haze.
The municipality of Boston comes next in the list. Around 80% of its houses and buildings were damaged by around 30-100%. While the municipality of Bagangga has around 70% houses and buildings affected with 10-100% damaged.
When we arrived in the municipality of Cateel on the first day, there were four physician volunteers already on the site. On the second day, in the municipality of Bagangga there were six physician volunteers. On the third day we visited the town of Boston and meet only one physician catering the town.
We saw two national politicians, including a former media-man/politician who now work in a media company. We saw some local politicians. Both national and international red cross team were visible. Water sanitation team from Albay Province, and various electric cooperative teams repairing the electric lines were also noted. DOH personnels in full emergency response uniform were busy taking photos, and one was very hard to approached when we asked for location.
The national news saying that the NFA building was ransacked is a bloated story. Stories about people begging in the streets are exaggerated. Majority of the locals particularly those in Cateel and Boston who suffered the most do not have time to stay in the street. They were busy building shelter from scraps that can be recycled. They do not even have time to seek medical help for infected wound, as their priority is sustenance and shelter. Importantly, much of the stories in the television is biased and politically motivated.
When we left, dysentery and diarrhea was noted. Absence of proper sanitation and lack of clean water supply, it is expected that the number of cases of dysentery and diarrhea will surely increase if not properly address.
At present, these three towns need food, clean water, clothing and shelter. Medicine supply is also dwindling However, the extent of damage to the agriculture section will make livelihood a huge problem. These area depend mainly on coconut, and now that most were damaged economic recovery is expected after four years the least.