The Philippines – a country never able to calm down

by Anna Grabner-Strobach,  2020/01/17

The volcano Taal spits ash and lava. Dense clouds rise upwards up to 800 meters high. People wear protective masks, because the wind caries the poisonous dust in all directions. For several days now the volcano has been active and the Philippine government prepares for the worst. The national disaster response unit, which registered more than 566 volcano quakes, evacuates people within a 14 kilometers radius.

People are accommodated in tents. Photo: humedica/PHILRADS

At present, 53,000 people live in 244 emergency accommodations. In an evacuation center, which has been specifically installed, our partner PHILRADS takes care of about 30 families. Our partner often travels the outskirts of the area threatened by eruptions in order to provide the people in the villages with the absolute necessary. Yesterday alone, 105 families received food packages.

At the same time the wounds caused by the last natural disasters are not healed yet. The severe earthquakes in autumn last year are still present in the minds of the people. All of a sudden, the insecurities and traumata of the past come back again.

Many people have lost all their possessions. Photo: humedica

In October 2019 the Philippines were hit by a heavy earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale. Seven people died, 215 were injured. Two weeks later on, another severe earthquake measuring 6.6 shook the South of the Philippines. On the island of Mindanao 300 people were injured. The cities Mikilala and Magsaysay were hit particularly hard. Six people, among them also children, were found dead under the ruins. humedica supported the affected inhabitants with 2,000 food packages and tried to counter the fear of the people in close cooperation with other organizations. For this task several groups have merged to one single big one. humedica, PHILRADS, the pastor of the local church as well as volunteers from the local church community formed a joint relief team to reach out to the victims.

humedica, PHILRADS, the pastor of the local church community and many volunteers join to help together. Photo: humedica

Even now people stand together. Volcano eruptions are not uncommon in the Philippines. The Filipino islands are situated in a very active seismic zone.
The so-called Ring of Fire in the Pacific Area consists of a series of more than 450 partly active, partly dormant volcanos situated along the coastal zones. Countries like Indonesia, Sumatra and Malaysia are further littoral states near the Ring of Fire. About 90 per cent of all earthquakes worldwide take place in this region. In addition to the volcano eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes, on average 20 typhoons move through the island state each year. In particular during the monsoon season from June to November heavy and even life-threatening rains occur, which are likely to cause floods and landslides.

Heavy rainfall leads to floods and mudslides. Photo: humedica

Due to their frequency the fear of disasters is palpable among the people. Living in the Philippines obviously carries a certain natural risk. But then the country is nevertheless provenance, home and base of life for millions of extraordinary people, an impressive nature and unbroken cooperation.

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