DART continues to monitor the situation in the central #Philippines, following landfall of #TyphoonMELOR (known locally as #NONA). The latest update from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council highlights extensive #flooding and infrastructure damage, particularly in the Mindoro and Samar provinces, where the Philippine Armed Forces and other Civil Defence Organisations have been mobilized to assist with recovery operations. The positive news is that thanks to a well-coordinated evacuation programme (750,000 people), there have been very few human casualties and so far, the Government has not requested international assistance. There is, however, a second low pressure system developing to the east which may become #cyclonic and, hot on the heels of this typhoon, impact on the Philippines by the end of the week. Our thoughts are with those communities already affected and our thanks to those DART responders who have already #volunteered to deploy at short notice. Your support is really appreciated, never more so than at this time of the year.
First update from our team in #NorthernSamar:
The DART team arrived safely in San Jose early on the 2nd Jan and got straight to work. The weather is reportedly very hot, but the team are ‘on task’ and in good spirits. As anticipated, the Mayor’s first priority was to make the Central School safe from windblown tree damage and hanging branches so that the construction of temporary learning spaces can begin. Schools across the region are due to open on the 4th, although it’s not yet clear to what extent many of them will be able to function. Getting children back to school after events such as these is vitally important. Apart from the obvious importance of continuing their education, school represents a return to normal routines for children whose lives at home may have been, quite literally, turned upside down by the typhoon. There are no other international #NGOs working in the area, but the DART team is coordinating with the local government and Philippines #Rotary organisations who are continuing to deliver aid supplies from further south in Leyte, some 5 to 8 hours drive from San Jose.
NONA deployment gallery
Just over two weeks ago, #typhoonMELOR (known locally as #NONA) swept across the central Philippines with winds gusting in excess of 165kph. Three quarters of a million people were evacuated, 100,000 homes destroyed, 181,000 damaged and 290,000 people continue to receive shelter and food aid.
Across the path of the typhoon, 42 people are known to have lost their lives with many others missing or injured. Some 39 health facilities have been damaged and 420 schools. The #Government’s latest assessment is that 950 classrooms have been destroyed and 1420 damaged.
On New Year’s Eve, in response to a direct request from the municipal mayor of San Jose, DART International deployed a 4 man team to one of the worst affected regions in #NorthernSamar. In addition to delivering specialist advice and assistance, the team will offer training to help the local community build resilience against future typhoon events.
The Charity would like to thank its #volunteers and #sponsors from the#UKArborist Industry for their continued support and generosity, especially,Stein Products Limited, Glendale Managed Services, Makita UK and Forst.
DART NONA Deployment - Update 2
Alongside the ongoing clearance work at the San Jose Central School, the team have been training carefully selected local volunteers in safe chainsaw handling and basic arborist skills. In a country that experiences around 20 typhoons a year, the Philippine people are all too familiar with the problems and dangers caused by windblown trees and the local government is fully behind the DART training and resilience initiative.
Our aim is to leave a legacy of DART's work in San Jose. On conclusion of their training programme, the locally trained volunteers will in turn train others in their community. Another aspect of the team's 'resilience building' work has been to identify and manage trees that represent an obvious danger in the future; pruning back high risk trees in the school grounds, especially those that are adjacent to, or overhanging, classrooms.
Having almost concluded clearance work at San Jose Central School and having made a financial donation to the Principal Mrs Endino and Chair of the PTA Dr Perez, the team are assisting them in the procurement of building materials and local volunteers to help repair and re-roof the damaged classrooms.
Tomorrow they move to St Jose Technical High School to begin work on the town's secondary school. The team are all well and in good spirits; generally overwhelmed by the gratitude of the local community for the work they're doing. In turn we're very grateful for your continued support towards the DART project.
Some photos of the team meeting local officials and most importantly, the kids!
One of the team managed to get into town this morning and access a wifi signal for long enough to transfer some photos and even a couple of short video clips of activities over the past couple of days, so I'll let the pictures do the talking:
First the obvious stuff:
Then there's the chainsaw service training:
Safe chainsaw handling and basic arborist skills:
Team fixer Jimmy Enticknap-Green demonstrating his 'poker face' as the team purchase building materials to re-roof one of the badly damaged classrooms:
And finally, a shot of the local wildlife. There's a unsubstantiated rumour that it moved as the flash activated, causing the photographer to make what was described by witnesses as, 'an unseemly and poorly controlled decent from the tree'. I'm sure it was actually much bigger than it looks Gary!
DART Deployment - Update 4
The team have departed #NorthernSamar and are on their way home. They're scheduled to arrive back at LHR tomorrow evening at 19:50. I haven't yet spoken to them directly, but we've received a few photographs from a Filipino contact illustrating their final day in-country and what appears to be a great send off from the community of #SanJose!
I intend to meet the lads at Heathrow tomorrow to debrief the team, collect kit, etc. Over the next couple of days we'll put together a summary of everything that was achieved as a result of the team's efforts and your generous sponsorship. Glendale Managed Services, Makita UK, Stein Products Limited, and forst woodchippers
#Pasasalamat (written behind the lads on the stage) translates to#Thanksgiving.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the photographs!
DART Operations Manager
Farewell and 'Pasasalamat' from the Children of San Jose
The children of San Jose say goodbye to our team in their own way.
It's final assessment day for our local community volunteers. Team leader Gary Bailey surveys some of the typhoon damage to Geratag School where the team are working.
Final assessment day - Continued
The team give a graphic demonstration of why it's important to know what you're doing when clearing large windblown trees. As this tree is cut, the weight of the 2m root plate swings tons of timber back into the vertical. The potential dangers to the chainsaw operator and anyone in the vicinity (especially in the lee of the root plate) are obvious.
Interview with a teacher describing the typhoon evacuation and the community's fear of storm surge and falling trees. DART International UK is helping to fund emergency classroom repairs, but apart from structural damage, the school urgently needs to replace teaching resources lost in the storm.
Conducting Chainsaw Service Training with members of the San Jose Disaster Coordination and Management Organisation.
Carrying out a program of Safe Chainsaw Handling training with members of the San Jose Disaster Coordination and Management Team.
DART Deployment - Final NONA Deployment Update
All four members of the DART team are home safe, having completed a 2 week deployment to Northern Samar in the Central Philippines.
The stated aims of the deployment were as follows:
To assist with disaster recovery and clearance of typhoon debris in accordance with local disaster management priorities.
Throughout the deployment the team worked under the direction of the Vice Mayor as head of the local Disaster Coordination and Management Organisation (DCMO). As anticipated, the local government's priority was to clear wind-blown trees and 'hung up' timber from the grounds of local schools. As a result, the team worked in a total of 3 schools: San Jose Central School, the town's Secondary Technical College and nearby Geratag School. San Jose Central School were particularly devastated by the loss of their computer classroom (8 computers for 1300 children). The DART team purchased sufficient roofing materials to allow the school to rebuild the classroom with the aid of volunteer labour.
To provide advice on the treatment of damaged and/or high risk trees and carry out any disaster resilience work requested/approved by the local government or other land owners.
In addition to clearing fallen timber, the team carried out tree management work on 20 large and 'high risk' Mango trees in the grounds of San Jose Central School. One teacher at the school expressed their appreciation that the team were attempting to save and manage damaged trees, rather than simply 'fell them' as often happened in the past.
If appropriate, and with the approval of local community leaders, carry out a local programme of chainsaw handling and tree clearance training with local volunteers.
Throughout the deployment, and with the approval of the town's Mayor, the team carried out a programme of training with 4 carefully selected members of the town's DCMO. Training included: Risk Assessment, the importance of PPE, Safe Chainsaw Handling and Cross Cutting of timber (on the ground) and Basic Chainsaw Maintenance. On conclusion of the deployment, each of the 4 local volunteers passed a formal competency assessment.
On conclusion of the deployment, consideration may be given to donating machinery and PPE to suitably trained volunteers and/or organisations.
Thanks to the approval and generosity of Stein and Makita UK, the team donated the deployment chainsaws and full PPE to the DCMO for future use by the trained volunteers in dealing with extreme weather events.
Establish useful contacts and identify opportunities for future 'pre-planned' DART deployments to aid long-term recovery and/or disaster resilience in the region.
No other International NGOs were working in the San Jose area. In addition to working with the San Jose local government and DCMO, the team coordinated their activities with senior members of Rotary International who were conducting the delivery of humanitarian aid from elsewhere in the Philippines. A number of useful contacts were established should the Charity conduct future operations in the region.
In summary, it's clear from social media that the team made an immediate and lasting impact on San Jose. Three large schools have been made safer, a valuable classroom can now be repaired and the DCMO is better trained and equipped to deal with future typhoon events. All of which was achieved thanks to the team's professionalism and the financial and material backing of Stein Products Limited, Glendale Managed Services, Makita UK and Forst-woodchippers
On behalf of the trustees and volunteers, thank you for your continued support to DART International UK.