It is making its way across the central Philippines, leaving communities ravaged, and with unconfirmed reports of injuries and fatalities. Locally the storm's being called Yolanda, and in its path are an estimated ten million people, thousands of who have already been evacuated.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Aaron Aspi, Emergency Communications Specialist with World Vision in the Philippines.
ASPI: The storm has made landfall right now and it's reported to be in Iloilo, just west and northwest of the island of Bohol, and is heading back towards the eastern side of the country.
ASPI: There are some levels of preparation that were done in while waiting for the landfall of the storm. Since yesterday, preparedness measures are enforced by the government. Prime Minister advised to stock up on food supplies and have their emergency survival kits ready. But here in Bohol, it has been a difficult, because many families are displaced in greatest areas, and are still staying in makeshift tents and afraid to go to enclosed spaces, because they can still feel aftershock.
HILL: Have there been any confirmation of fatalities in the Philippines from this super typhoon?
ASPI: Hmm, as of this morning, there are still no confirmed fatalities reported, but there are already reports coming in that there are over 154,000 people in evacuation centres and they are looming threat, storm surges with giant waves up to seven metres high crashing into shores and coastal communities and that could be really fatal for the people who are living near the shores and those who are in agricultural land that can be flooded as well.
HILL: Now, Haiyan or Yolanda as it's known in the Philippines, is not just a typhoon. it's a super typhoon and this has been regarded as one of the biggest systems for a long, long time. Do people realise the scale of devastation that a super typhoon can cause?
ASPI: Hmm, it has, they have an idea how an ordinary storm could go, but at this point in time, as this super typhoon somehow caught them off guard, because they're used to winds with 185 kilometres an hour, but this one is really strong and it features up to more than 350 kilometres an hour, so there is really a big difference with that and people are also scared to go out.
HILL: In the atoll of Kalangel, in the north of Palau, we heard that a lot of the local people were told, there's a mandatory evacuation order, but they refused to leave. because they thought they'd be okay. Now, physically they were ok, but all of their houses were destroyed. Now, if people on that atoll had that experience, could the same sort of thing happen in the Philippines, could people not necessarily realise how big this storms going to be?
ASPI: Well, there are also cases like that here, although there are enforced evacuations that were being applied by the government. Some people really chose to stay behind in their homes and protect their belongings, and, of course, here in the quake hit areas, people are still reeling from the affects of the aftershocks, so they can't just go inside the evacuation centres, because they're having a hard time sleeping there, because of psycho-social trauma.
HILL: So really, this typhoon comes at the worst possible time for the Philippines, still recovering from other disasters?
ASPI: Yes, this is really a difficult time now in the Philippines and especially here in the central part, which is suffering from back-to-back disasters, brought by an earthquake and now a super typhoon.
HILL: Are people in the Philippines used to super typhoons like this? Is this a normal sort of a thing, does this happen every year or is this an unusual event?
ASPI: Hmm, this is an unusual event and last year, Typhoon Bopha that hit the southern Philippines killed around 1,000 people, but now a year after, there is just one which is stronger, but that is higher and which is proven to be much stronger than Typhoon Bopha. So it's really unusual for the Philippines to get super typhoons that are as big and as strong and massive as Typhoon Haiyan.
HILL: Now, tell us about your organisation, World Vision. What are you doing to help people prepare?
ASPI: For the preparations, people have been asked to leave the areas that are considered danger zones, those that are prone to landslides and floods, and here in Bohol, there is an ongoing response for the quake-hit families, but sorry to say, right now, these operators are still hampered as we search for alternate drugs, because landslides and damaged roads and other damages to infrastructure, because they have been structurally weakened by the quake, so now we're finding ways to reach out to the communities that have been isolated.
HILL: OK, thanks. Well, just before we go, Mr Aspi, can you let us know roughly where is the eye of the storm now. Is it over the Central Philippines, where physically is the centre of the storm right now?