Typhoon Haiyan swept across the central Philippines on Friday leaving a trail of massive destruction in its wake. With sustained winds reported at over 145 miles per hour, and significantly stronger gusts, Haiyan was the second category 5 typhoon to strike the Philippines this year. The typhoon affected 4.3 million people across 36 provinces.
Philippine Red Cross volunteers throughout the region are reporting significant damage and a growing death toll, while the full extent of the devastation continues to unfold. While relief efforts are underway, blocked roads, destroyed infrastructure and downed communication lines are making the response particularly challenging.
The Philippine Red Cross is leading the response effort and their volunteers have been caring for people even before Typhoon Haiyan made landfall—working closely to support pre-emptive evacuations of more than 125,000 families. The Philippine Red Cross is the largest humanitarian organization in the country, with 1,000 staff and an estimated 500,000 active volunteers engaged in response to this emergency. Red Cross has begun distributions of relief supplies, but delivery in the worst affected city of Tacloban has been significantly constrained by damage to local infrastructure.
The American Red Cross has deployed four people to the Philippines. These include two people who specialize in telecommunication and who are traveling with satellite equipment, and two others who specialize in disaster assessment. The Red Cross network has deployed teams in logistics, disaster assessment, shelter, health, water and sanitation.
In addition to supplying people, expertise, and equipment, the American Red Cross is helping reconnect families separated by Typhoon Haiyan. People searching for a missing family member in the Philippines should remember that many phones lines are down. If still unable to reach loved ones, people contact their local chapter of the American Red Cross to initiate a family tracing case.