Water and shelter first priorities in mountainous areas hit by Typhoon Mangkhut

Washed out bridges over flooding rivers in Cagayan are making isolated communities of indigenous people in mountainous areas even harder to reach. Photo: Oxfam

In the Philippines, early assessments indicate emergency shelter and water are highest concerns, but loss of corn and rice harvests loom as serious problem.

In the hours following the landfall of Typhoon Mangkhut in the northern Philippines province of Cagayan on Saturday, Oxfam staff were already working closely with the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC) to assess the damage from the storm. One team immediately visited the mountainous municipality of Rizal, in the southwestern part of Cagayan.

Typhoon Mangkhut, known in the Philippines as Ompong, hit the northern Luzon island hard and CDRC staff member Miguel Valle reported that it was extremely difficult to get into the Rizal area. “It took us three hours just to get through, and in our first attempt we were blocked by a flooded bridge and we had to take another route, which was very far. We were also confronted by landslides along the way.”

Valle says the Rizal municipality contains several isolated areas inhabited entirely by indigenous people. “They have their own resources and practice preparedness, but due to the extent of the impact of Ompong, they still need assistance—like shelter repair materials, food, and water. They depend on wells for water, and they are prone to water-borne diseases.”

To address these concerns, Oxfam is first prioritizing distribution of water and emergency shelter materials like tarps and ropes.

The medium-and longer-term concerns in these areas will be related to food, and rebuilding the agricultural activity in the area, Valle says. “Their livelihoods here are mostly dependent on agriculture like corn and rice, which were flooded,” Valle says after a meeting with officials in Rizal. “The municipality has declared these crops 100 percent damaged. It’s very unfortunate, they should have normally harvested these crops this coming October. So all of it is gone.”

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