Typhoon Haiyan: preparations leading to action for animals in the Philippines

IFAW and PAWS teams plan during their assessment stage on the ground in Manila.AUTHOR'S NOTE: As I was typing this report, a 4.8 earthquake hit Tubigon, Bohol and we felt it here in Cebu!

The IFAW-PAWS team spent the rest of the day preparing for mobilization by meeting with government officials including veterinarians who all expressed concern about not being able to reach friends, family, and colleagues along the coastal areas who experienced the worst of the Category 5+ winds and rain delivered by the storm.

As we prepared for a few hours of sleep yesterday night, we shared experiences of working in some of the most devastating storms to hit our planet.

IFAW has responded to so many and over the years we continue to learn how to best help those impacted by disasters. Two of the most devastating storms to hit U.S. soil were Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and more recently Hurricane Sandy.

We are speechless as we ponder the realization that Haiyan was stronger than Katrina and Sandy, combined!

It's almost inconceivable to imagine winds reaching close to 200mph. Images of survivors show the shock on their faces and in their pleas for help. There was never any question of IFAW not responding to requests for support from our local partners in the Philippines.

This morning we jumped on a flight to Cebu, an island where the IFAW-PAWS disaster response team recently worked following the destructive 7.1 earthquake just a few short weeks ago.

Hundreds of thousands of residents were already homeless after the earthquake living in temporary camps. Quick evacuations ahead of Typhoon Haiyan saved thousands of lives but unfortunately, thousands more perished along the coast. Experts caution that the number of casualties could rise over 10,000 in this Eastern Visayas region alone.

All day today, we have been working in the downpour delivered by yet another storm,  locally known as Tropical Storm Zoraida that luckily is not staying here long but brings additional, un-welcomed rain.

Challenges face us at every turn – resources are hard to find, and communication is non-existent with many of the impacted islands. We stand in support of our humanitarian partners recognizing that rescue efforts of survivors are the top priority.

They in turn are supportive of us as they too are aware of the fact that many residents were not going to leave their animals behind, despite the warnings of the storm.

We all must work together to help the countless victims of Haiyan; there is so much work to do and so many in need. IFAW-PAWS disaster response team heads out again hours before first light tomorrow to reach Tacloban, considered 'Ground Zero' in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. Here we will continue our rapid assessment of animal needs.

We appreciate everyone’s thoughts and well wishes.

Stay tuned for more field updates.

--SW

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Experts

Cora Bailey
Director, Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW)
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Dr. Ian Robinson, Vice President, Programs & Int'l Operations
Vice President, Programs & Int'l Operations
Gail A'Brunzo, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Manager
Wildlife Rescue Manager, IFAW HQ
Hanna Lentz, Program Officer/Campaigner, IFAW HQ
Program Officer/Campaigner, IFAW HQ
Jan Hannah
Northern Dogs Project Manager
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Companion Animals
Program Director, Companion Animals
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Nancy Barr, Program Director, Animal Action Education
Program Director, Animal Action Education
Rebecca Brimley, Program Advisor
Program Advisor