Aid Agencies Prepare for the Worst as Super Typhoon Ruby Bears Down on Philippines

A year after the worst storm ever recorded devastated the same region, locals brace for more.

Meteorologists from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration monitor and plot the direction of super Typhoon Ruby. (Photo: Jay Directo/Getty Images)

Dec 5, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Marc Herman is the author of The Wizard and the Volcano, The Shores of Tripoli, and Searching for El Dorado and a cofounder of Deca, a longform journalists' co-op. He lives in Barcelona.

More than 19 million people in the Philippines are bracing for Typhoon Hagupit—also called Typhoon Ruby—to make landfall tomorrow, with the storm expected to hit some of the same areas still rebuilding after Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people and left more than a million homeless only last year.

As many as half a million people are likely to be evacuated today around the Visaya region of the central Philippines, according to the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, which is labeling this a “super typhoon.”

The category 5 storm, with winds currently at more than 125 mph, has several international and local NGOs preparing for the worst. The Philippine Red Cross disaster response teams are ready to support evacuations, and local staff and volunteers in the city of Tacloban, one of the worst hit by Haiyan, have prepared relief items such as food, sleeping mats, and hygiene kits, according to the organization’s website. The Global Red Cross network is also prepared to support up to 30,000 families in Manila, Cebu, and Subic. International NGO Save the Children is traveling into communities in the Philippines and prioritizing child-focused safety messages, according to its website.

“Children in the Haiyan affected areas are still recovering from the trauma of what they experienced just over a year ago,” said Country Director Ned Olney on the site. “We cannot underestimate the effect the fear of this new threat can have on them.”

Local NGO Young Pioneer Disaster Response on Bantayan Island had volunteers working all day yesterday and today to prepare for Typhoon Ruby, helping secure Oxfam’s satellite Internet system and preparing to receive evacuated families, according to news site Rappler. Google’s Crisis Response team also posted a crisis map pinpointing evacuation centers.

Typhoons of the strength and magnitude of Ruby are not new to the Philippines. In recent years, storms in the eastern Pacific have started to cluster around the end of the year, with typhoons Bopha and Sendong also striking since 2012. With Haiyan, that makes Ruby the fourth such storm in three years.

Local media, including regular updates from the Philippines’ GMA News, report that evacuations are going more smoothly than during last year’s hurried preparations for Haiyan. However, with many still displaced and living in camps from previous storms, emergency shelters and schools are already reaching capacity.

The storm is arriving amid preparations for the Christmas season in one of the world’s most populous Catholic nations. The timing affects travel plans for one of the world’s largest annual migrations, in which millions return from abroad, from the capital, Manila, and from regional capitals to hometowns for the holidays.

The arrival of Ruby also coincides with ongoing global climate talks this week in Lima, Peru.