Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Philippines boosts disaster preparedness as latest storm subsides

IRIN: As yet another tropical storm has been battering parts of the Philippine island of Luzon over the past few days, leaving thousands displaced, the government has set up a Technical Working Group (TWG) with the aim of improving preparedness for natural disasters and manmade calamities, including conflict.

“This will be the national focal point for all natural disasters from now on,” a senior disaster risk reduction official and executive director of the country’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Centre (NDRRMC), Benito Ramos, told IRIN.

Thousands of people are returning to their homes after Tropical Storm Meari resulted in extensive flooding in dozens of towns and cities on Luzon island, including Metro Manila, on 25-26 June. Of the more than one million people affected, nearly 40,000 were still in 126 evacuation centres as of 27 June, the NDRRMC reported.

Comprised of the NDRRMC and the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), TWG’s focus will be on typhoons, about 20 of which hit the country each year. Most typhoons strike from June to December. In 2009, the country was hit by some big ones, including Ketsana, Parma and Mirinae. Scientists believe the storms have strengthened in recent years due to the effects of La Niña.

“The establishment of this group is a real breakthrough,” said David Carden, head of office for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who will co-chair TWG with Ramos. “It demonstrates yet again that the new administration of President Benigno Aquino is fully committed to addressing the country’s disaster preparedness needs.”…

Tropical Storm Meari on June 23, 2011, via either the US Navy or NASA

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