U.N. assessments to gauge the needs of hundreds of thousands of people affected by Super Typhoon Goni, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever to hit the Philippines, reveal a catastrophic trail of devastation and destruction.
The superstorm made landfall Sunday in the eastern region of Bato in the island province of Catanduanes. A preliminary assessment shows at least 2 million people have been affected by the destructive force of Goni.
The United Nations reports 370,000 people are displaced. Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed. Schools, businesses and essential infrastructure in Goni's pathway have been demolished. Lives and livelihoods have been crushed.
World Food Program spokesperson Thomson Phiri said badly affected people in the hard-hit province of Albay told WFP’s assessment team they had never experienced such a powerful storm. They said their rice harvest has been lost, and the rain and wind have flattened fields, destroying crops.
“The top needs that we are seeing is that people are in need of food,” he said. “People are in need of shelter. People need clean water. They need sanitation. They do not have power and they need emergency telecommunication support.”
The International Organization for Migration said Goni barreled through many highly urbanized and heavily populated areas. Those places have some of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the country.
IOM spokesperson Paul Dillon said that has exacerbated the emergency response. He says it is critical that proper precautions against infection be taken at the evacuation sites.
“We have roughly 52,000 of people in evacuation centers at this time — 450 of them spread out across the affected areas,” he said. “The damage is extraordinary. In many cases those evacuation centers, which were critical in disaster preparedness, have been damaged themselves. Roofs have been ripped off and walls taken down.”
The World Health Organization reports nearly 392,000 coronavirus infections, including more than 7,460 deaths. Southern Luzern, one of the most affected areas in the country, has nearly 71,000 cases.
Dillon said it is very difficult for people to maintain physical distance in the overcrowded evacuation centers. He said priority protection needs include face masks, sanitizer bottles, and face shields. He said his agency also will be delivering modular tents and shelter grade tarps to protect Goni survivors from the elements.