EU envoy overwhelmed by devastation in Sendong-hit areas, vows to help more
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines—Heartbreaking.
This was how European Union Ambassador Guy Ledoux described the situation in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities, 18 days after disaster struck on December 17.
“The desolation makes you realize better what the people living here went through,” Ledoux said as he visited some evacuation areas here on Wednesday.
Ledoux said that although he did not visit all the areas devastated by the floods that reached up to 30 meters deep in some areas, he had seen how devastating it was from the faces of the people he had met.
“We only saw part of the destruction and it was already too much,” Ledoux said.
Ledoux arrived here on Wednesday, with the Spanish Embassy deputy head of mission, Maria Molina; Norberto Gomez de Liano, deputy coordinator general of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID); Josef Naudts, the Belgian Embassy’s First Secretary; and Dr. Mario Tavolaj, consultant at the Italian Embassy in Manila.
Ledoux said while aid has been pouring in, with EU donating more than P388 million, more has to be done to prevent the loss of lives from similar storms and floods in the future.
The floods here and Iligan City killed over 1,200 people while scores of others remain missing to this day. Nearly 40,000 people were displaced by the floods in the two cities.
“But beyond relief assistance is the continuing need to strengthen disaster preparedness mechanisms in the area. Although EU has invested significantly in disaster preparedness in the Philippines in the last few years, more needs to be done in this area,” he said.
Ledoux said disaster preparedness “has to be made part of the community life, by the community for the community.”
He said early warning systems must also be established along with community-based activities, local capacity building, small-scale mitigating actions, education and public awareness campaign.
“Urgent situations such as Tropical Storm ‘Sendong’ should also be a reminder to all of us about the importance of disaster preparedness to minimize the effects of natural disasters,” he said.
Philippine Red Cross (PRC) chairman Richard Gordon said the immediate rebuilding of the houses of the flood victims has become the core of efforts these days.
PRC leads the identification of families that would be moved to a housing relocation in Baragay (village) Lumbia.
The relocation site is a portion of land donated by the Jesuits, who run the Xavier University.
Gordon said that during the preparation of the relocation site, the PRC has set up tents to serve as temporary shelters of displaced residents.
He said residents would be tapped to build the houses.
“The recipients will have to share their time-sweat equities where they will help in the construction of their house. Even as they work on their houses, they will be paid with food supplies, and they will gain skills in life,” Gordon said.
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