Local agencies prepare response efforts in Philippines

Baltimore-area organizations were mobilizing relief efforts Saturday after one of the strongest typhoons to make landfall — with winds reaching almost 200 mph — struck the central Philippines, leaving as many as 1,200 people dead.

Officials from Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran World Relief said staff were ready to provide for the immediate needs of the thousands of people affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan.


Haiyan, with more powerful wind speeds than Hurricane Katrina, destroyed an airport, cut power and phone lines, and flattened crops. The official death toll is 138, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, but CNN cited the Philippine Red Cross for its estimate of 1,200 potential deaths.

"We started thinking about this last week because we knew this storm was going to be a big one, and we knew ... tens of thousands of people will be impacted," said Catholic Relief Services spokeswoman Liz O'Neil.


The organization flew 8,000 tarps to badly damaged areas to provide temporary shelter for those who lost their homes, she said. In the coming days, staff will work to provide other basic needs, including clean water, and sanitation kits.

After that, she said, attention will turn to the recovery stage — "how they are going to earn a living when crops have been destroyed, how they are going to put food on the table," among other long-term needs. "We stay for the long haul."

Emily Sollie, a spokeswoman with Baltimore-based Lutheran World Relief, said the organization will send three staff members to the devastated areas on Monday to began relief efforts, which include providing clean drinking water, quilts, school kits, baby care and hygiene kits.

"We do know it was a very large storm and one of the worst storms the Philippines has seen," she said.

Lutheran World Relief will also work to provide short-term work assignments, such as clearing debris, to residents who have lost their livelihood as a result of the storm, Sollie said.

One of the hardest hit areas was the city of Tacloban in central Leyte province, where officials estimate suggest more than 1,000 deaths, while 200 were counted in the eastern province of Samar, according to news reports.

Pictures from the areas showed leveled buildings, roofs completely ripped off of others,, roads washed out by Typhoon Haiyan, the second category 5 typhoon to hit the Philippines this year after Typhoon Usagi.

Last year, 1,100 people died during Typhoon Bopha, which caused $1 billion in damage.


Reuters contributed to this story.