In Context: How the Philippines Prepared for Typhoon Haiyan

In Context: How the Philippines Prepared for Typhoon Haiyan

The Philippines was rocked by typhoon Haiyan on Friday—reportedly one of the strongest on record—that is so far estimated to have killed at least three people and caused an unknown amount of damage.* Last month, a similar disaster struck India when the cyclone Phailin hit the country’s east coast from the Bay of Bengal, causing widespread flooding and killing an estimated 14 people.

Both incidents are notable for far worse outcomes avoided through careful preparation—the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of citizens in the path of both storms limited their human toll. As Phailin approached in mid-October, India evacuated some 800,000 people in pursuit of what an official called a “zero-casualty” approach to disaster preparedness, informed by the experience of a 1999 cyclone in which 10,000 were killed. In the Philippines, similarly, some 100,000 were reportedly sheltering in evacuation centers as the storm approached today.

This kind of preparedness is vital—particularly so for vulnerable populations clustered in areas prone to natural disasters—and it is becoming increasingly common, as Alain Guilloux explained in a July briefing for WPR.

The good news is that disaster-affected countries themselves have significantly improved disaster management capacities, from prevention to rescue, relief and recovery. Whether it is buffering cyclone-prone coastal areas of Bangladesh with mangroves, pre-positioning battle-hardened emergency managers ahead of a typhoon in the Philippines, shortening the response time of rescuers after an earthquake or strengthening logistics chains, improvements across the board have softened the blow of natural disasters in terms of loss of lives—even if they have not reduced displacement, the loss of livelihoods, damage to infrastructure and overall economic cost.

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