November 16, 2020
On November 1, Super Typhoon Goni made landfall on Catanduanes Island, in the Philippines. With 10-minute sustained winds of 140 mph and maximum sustained winds that reached 195 mph, it was the strongest storm of the year, and the strongest since Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Over the course of two days, Goni caused significant damage to the surrounding area, with volcanic mudflows, flooding and wind damaging nearly 80% of shelters there. About 2.1 million people were affected by the storm, with more than 517,000 people initially displaced. So far, 25 people have been reported dead as a result of the storm, and about 400 injured, with those numbers expected to rise in the coming days as more information comes through. The local government is reporting that at least 170,000 houses were either damaged or destroyed, and a number of towns remain difficult to access.
The typhoon’s violent winds and torrential rains blew away roofs, toppled structures and caused severe flooding and landslides throughout the Bicol Region, including Albay province, which is home to the active Mayon Volcano, where lahar deposits on its slopes liquefied into mudflows and buried at least 300 houses in Guinobatan.
Less than two weeks later, on November 11, Typhoon Vamco made landfall on Patnanungan, an island to the east of Manila. The storm then continued to gain strength as it moved over water toward the main island of Luzon, eventually becoming a Category 2 storm with 10-minute sustained winds of 95 mph and gusts of more than 125 mph. As it passed north of Manila, it caused extensive flooding, mudflows and landslides that affected more than 2 million people. More than 34,000 houses have been destroyed or damaged, with nearly 310,000 people displaced, and damage to infrastructure, communications and the power grid is widespread. The current death toll stands at 67, with 21 people injured and 13 missing.
Preparedness and response efforts around both storms have been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The risk of transmission remains high, especially in typically crowded evacuation centres. The Department of Health has reminded local governments to deploy safety officers to check sanitation and monitor COVID-19 symptoms among people displaced by the storm. The main COVID-19 laboratory in the Bicol region was also damaged, prompting the suspension of testing. At least 1,000 COVID-19 patients under quarantine in treatment facilities around Metro Manila have been transferred to hospitals and hotels.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and World Food Programme (WFP), is leading an inter-agency assessment in affected areas, working with non-governmental organizations (including International Medical Corps), civil society organizations and religious groups.
On November 4, the Philippine government formally requested assistance from humanitarian agencies to respond to Super Typhoon Goni, and said it would allow assessment teams into the affected areas without quarantine, as long as they follow strict health protocols. International Medical Corps is conducting rapid needs assessments and is preparing to provide assistance with infection prevention and control (IPC), non-food items, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies to people affected by these devastating storms.