By Dr. Amanda Vincent
As you know, it’s been an incredibly difficult few weeks for the Philippines. Following a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last month that caused considerable loss of lives and homes, the Visayas region was on Friday hit by Typhoon Haiyan (a.k.a. Yolanda), one the strongest tropical storms on record.
The regions worst affected by these twin disasters include places very near and dear to our hearts: Danajon Bank in northern Bohol Province, Bantayan Island off the northern coast of Cebu Province, and Panay Island further west. These are places where Project Seahorse and the Zoological Society of London have collaborated with communities on marine conservation ventures for up to 19 years, places where we have many friends, places we love.
We are deeply anxious about “our” communities. Early reports from our field staff indicate that over 2,000 households in Danajon Bank alone have been badly affected by the earthquake. We do not yet know the extent of the typhoon damage in Bantayan (where Yolanda made its third landfall), but reports from our team indicate that 80-90% of homes in two communities on Panay have been destroyed. We cannot yet begin to deduce the situation for fisheries and marine resources/conservation.
The small coastal villages that we know best are the most overlooked in terms of national and international relief and recovery. So we are stepping in and have begun providing emergency relief in the form of packs containing food, clean water, and basic medicines. As soon as it is safe to do so, we will send experts into these areas to evaluate the damage both to the communities and to the coastal ecosystems. This will be the first step towards in the recovery process as we help these communities to rebuild their livess and rehabilitate the ecosystems they depend on for survival.
We are hugely grateful to our marvelous Filipino team, who are doing everything they can to provide relief to the communities. Thankfully, our team members are all safe. Some, however, are dealing with great personal anxieties about family members caught in disaster zones or damage to their own homes. We are very proud of their courage and selflessness.
As the relief effort unfolds, we will be posting regular updates in this space. We hope to have photos and first-hand accounts from our field staff in the coming days. In the meantime, you can find real-time updates from our team on Twitter at @ProjectSeahorse, @ChaiApale, @AmandaVincent1 and @HeatherKoldewey.
If you’d like to help, please consider donating to ZSL’s relief and recovery fund. The funds will go towards emergency relief and help to kick-start the longer-term recovery process.
Dr. Amanda Vincent & Dr. Heather Koldewey
Project Seahorse/Zoological Society of London
P.S. For full coverage of the storm and its aftermath, you may want to explore out CNN's curated twitter feed. To see Danajon Bank in all of its pre-storm glory, visit our Expedition: Danajon Bank blog.