February 16, 2022
With the initial assessment that the typhoon classification of Odette being a Storm Signal #3, the Local Government of Del Carmen prepared the pre-disaster protocols and initial response protocols per Storm Signal #3 defined process.
Pre-emptive evacuation was done for all coastal and inland communities with pre-packed food items ready for distribution. Evacuation centers were designated with schools, public buildings, and some private homes as designed by our Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction (MDRR) Plan. The health team was ready for the immediate response and the MDRR, with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), was ready for debris clearing to prepare for our road access.
Aftermath of Typhoon Odette in Del Carmen, Surigao Del Norte (Photo from Vice Mayor Coro)
On December 16, 2021, when Odette made landfall in the Municipality of Del Carmen, it was classified as a category 5 typhoon with the same intensity as Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). As part of being ground zero, the typhoon and the tornadoes that came with it damaged and ravaged 100 percent of private and public infrastructure, 4942 homes, affecting the lives and livelihood of 6724 families. All of Del Carmen was left in ruins.
Given the extent of the damage of a Category 5 typhoon and empathizing with the employees as victims themselves, we allowed at least three days for each government employee to stabilize personal needs before we called them to report back to the office to start the mobilization efforts for response and relief operations. By December 30, 2021, the local government unit of Del Carmen released its first Situational Report, raised the flag, and completed two rounds of food assistance addressing the immediate needs of hunger, which resulted in zero percent crime in affected areas.
The COVID-19 risk was factored in already in the pre-disaster engagement with identified isolation facilities ready in both municipal and barangay levels separate from the identified evacuation centers.
During the landfall of Typhoon Odette, LGU Del Carmen and Siargao Islands had zero reported COVID cases. Thus, the risk for COVID infection was relatively low. Since 2020, Del Carmen never had an outbreak managing any risks that may arise from COVID threats through policy and process management.
Disaster risk reduction measures and disaster preparations have included the conduct of massive regular information, education, and communication efforts in every community, organization of Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction (BDRR) mechanisms and incorporating Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERT) operations, identification of evacuation centers and conduct of the pre-emptive evacuation procedures prior to the landfall, and the conduct of massive COVID vaccination drive to achieve 70 percent herd immunity prior to the Typhoon Odette landfall. The IEC and process validations are part of the Seal of Health Governance, an internationally recognized local government innovation, which was relaunched last September 2021, assuring the community of their active role in disaster management.
Del Carmen was already conducting climate change adaptation processes with the following initiatives pre-Odette:
Because of these measures and initiatives, we were able to mitigate the impacts of the typhoon on our constituents. First, people were immediately moved to designated evacuation centers, minimizing the loss of lives from flying debris, including GI sheets from roofs. The mangrove forest and the sea wall protected people from the storm surge.
After structural assessments, only the roofs/ceilings of public infrastructure were damaged. The structural integrity of buildings was intact because it was designed to hold versus category 5 typhoons.
Trees and leaves have started sprouting and the green environment is fast recovering. Natural recovery was faster than expected and hopefully so did our rice plantations. This we can attribute to the care we have done for our environment.
Electricity from the main lines, including that of public facilities, is now restored. Sea/air transport was immediately restored to allow the flow of goods, experts, and trading. Bouncing back faster was achieved because of disaster management plans in place that enable us to mobilize external partners that will support the immediate restoration of public utilities.
Moreover, thanks to risk-informed protocols and measures in place, public health care recovered almost immediately. Both COVID and non-COVID vaccination continued immediately on December 20. Pre- and post-natal care was made available from December 18. Medical missions to communities were done from December 19 to stop the possible spread of water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.
Lastly, school operations are now being prepared for face-to-face classes. With the systems in place, we will provide psychological first aid to all the youth (under 30 years old) using play therapy, as well as conduct a centralized feeding program with teachers and youth leaders.
A glimpse of Typhoon Odette impacts on infrastructure in Del Carmen, Surigao Del Norte (Photo from Vice Mayor Coro)
The Local Government of Del Carmen has always advocated and utilized science-based governance in all its process and decisions in planning and investing for development through the following:
The typhoon season happens yearly and is getting stronger because of the prevailing climate crisis. We need a system that allows faster response for food security, shelter rehabilitation. and livelihood recovery. We have an initial program on this, but it requires some tweaking based on the recent experience. We intend to pilot this in March 2022 to meet the typhoon season of November 2022.
The local government is considering redesigning public buildings to address multiple risks, including earthquakes and stronger typhoons. Our goal is to retain government operations and food storage facilities through difficult times. The challenge to making this program a reality is financing itself. We need to move around funds and gather additional support for the rehabilitation of public infrastructure.
We also intend to strengthen our mangrove rehabilitation and watershed reforestation program.
Moreover, we will increase IEC and investment in climate-smart agriculture and fisheries. For these initiatives, the challenges will be the financial limitation of the government and getting the private sector to invest in sustainable fishing practices.
Finally, we intend to influence national government policy on response operations during Category 5 typhoons or related extreme weather events, recognizing the value of early warning and communications versus post-disaster response of the government. The challenge will be the bureaucratic processes of the national government itself but we will work through this to accomplish our goals.
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What we need from the national government and the private business sector is to augment investments on the following:
Destruction left Typhoon Odette on a school in Del Carmen, Surigao Del Norte (Photo from Vice Mayor Coro)
The municipality is in urgent need of:
For In-Kind Donations:
For Cash donations: