The Asia Pacific Battles a Fury from Mother Nature

5 October 2009 By Kelly Sanford

A devastating series of natural disasters including earthquakes, a tsunami and three typhoons has battered the Western and South Pacific, leaving hundreds dead and thousands displaced. With an inundation of catastrophes, the Philippines remain in a “national state of calamity.” In a statement released by UN Under Secretary General, Noeleen Heyzer, said, “It is almost unprecedented for any region to experience so many disasters over such a short period of time. The catastrophes of the past week remind us that the Asia Pacific is the world's disaster hot spot.”

Typhoon Parma remains a nearly stationary tropical storm which continues to cause flooding for the northern Philippines and Taiwan. The close proximity of a second super typhoon, Melor, appears to be causing an unusual twin-storm phenomenon called the “Fujiwhara Effect” where the two storms are close enough to interact. Though windstorm impact is forecast to be a glancing blow for the Philippines, Melor's movement could drag Parma back into regions which are still flooded from it’s first impact.

Capt. Keith Thompson of M/Y Lucky Dog is currently in Las Pinas, Philippines, as he and his fiancé prepare for their October 10 wedding.  “We have another Category 4 hurricane about the skirt the northern coast of the Philippines,” he says. “It's north of Manila and less populated than where hundreds of thousands have lost all their possessions to floods. We are trying to raise support and donate used clothing, water and food to the thousands who have been forced to leave their homes.  I'm sure this doesn't make much news in the U.S.; however, it has called for a national response here in the Philippines, and even the musicians and actors here are putting on an impromptu concert to raise money and encouragement for those who have been devastated from the floods.”

From his personal experience, he says, “There have been some amazing stories from the aftermath of the first monsoon. In one instance, a young construction worker risked his life, saving about thirty people from the strong currents of the flood, only to give his own life in his last attempt, saving a young mother and her baby.  In another instance, a popular Philippine movie star was able to text message one of her friends who was also an actor, in which he was able to use a speedboat to rescue her... just like in the movies!  Even as I am typing this, my future uncle "Guido" just arrived at the house and said he was at "Ground Zero" yesterday.  He said the water there is still about neck deep, and there were a lot of mattresses outside the buildings, and mud everywhere.  He was there in San Mateo, Montalban Rizal, helping distribute medicine to help prevent disease in the damaged areas. Despite the loss from the typhoon, it's the stories and heroic efforts from everyday citizens, not to mention the rich and famous, that really touch my heart.”

Over the weekend, Capt.Thompson says, “There was a huge pile of food and clothing goods in the middle of our church's entryway as donations for the needy. To date, our church alone has helped just under one thousand families affected.  As I am sure other churches and organizations are doing the same, I can only imagine the great volunteer of response. My fiancé and I also contributed food and a financial contribution to be sent to the affected areas.”

When asked what fellow yacht crew could do to help in the relief effort, Thompson says, “If you are in a position to contact relief efforts for Manila, they are in need of lots of clothing, water and food as hundreds of thousands have lost their possessions in a storm that produced a month's amount of rain in twelve hours. And of course, prayers are greatly desired as well, as the Philippines are a strong nation of faith in God. Each time an American asks of the conditions here, I share the concern with my future family and friends and it brings joy to them all knowing that our friends and family are praying and thinking about [their] nation in time of need.”

Any crew or vessels in a position to help deliver aid (supplies or delivery) to the Philippines are encouraged to contact YachtAid Global, which has extended an offer to help coordinate efforts from the Eastern Pacific (and abroad).