Philippines Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) Leaves 24 Dead, Millions Displaced

( [email protected] ) Dec 08, 2014 07:47 PM EST
Motorists pass by toppled electrical posts due to strong winds brought by Typhoon Hagupit in Camalig, Albay province, eastern Philippines on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014 AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Typhoon Hagupit, locally known as "Ruby," slammed the Philippines this weekend, leaving 24 dead and forcing millions of others into shelters. However, many are thankful that the storm has spared the region the devastation of last year's Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, and destroying close to 1.1 million homes.

"We're happy that we've learned our lessons from our past experiences. This is a good sign," said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross.

"We saw that with preparation and being alert we prevented tragedy and harm, we took our countrymen away from harm," added Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas. "It is sad to hear news of deaths, but this is very low, way below what the potential was."

The Associated Press reports that Hagupit weakened into a tropical storm Monday as it neared the capital of Manila, allowing many of those who evacuated areas in the south to return home.  

According to AccuWeather, the typhoon made landfall shortly before nightfall in the resort town of San Juan in Batangas province, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Manila with maximum sustained winds of 85 kilometers (53 miles) per hour and gusts of 100 kph (62 mph). But a few hours later, Manila still was experiencing only slight winds and light rain.

Roman Catholic and other humanitarian agencies have already offered support to the Philippines in the wake of the storm, according to Catholic News Service. Many NGO groups are still active in the region, which was devastated by Haiyan in November 2013.

"It was many years before Haiyan struck that Leyte and Samar had strong typhoons," said Joe Curry, country representative for Catholic Relief Services. "And now here we are 13 months later. It's hard to believe, but it's a fact that there's a very strong typhoon threatening the coasts of the same areas. We need to be prepared."

Curry added that CRS coordinated with local parishes to prepare emergency resources and help those affected by the typhoon.

Days before Hagupit hit, CEBU Archbishop Jose Palma also  instructed all parishes to welcome the evacuees to their churches.

"We welcome everybody, even of other faiths," Palma said, adding that  the archdiocese's relief arm would  bring available stocks of relief goods to Bogo City.

"If we are united, if we have faith, we can overcome everything," he added.

According to Jipapad mayor Delia Monleon, the biggest problem currently facing the area are the high  floodwaters which are preventing people from getting to their homes.

"Our problem is power, food is a problem because boats cannot leave," said Monleon. "It was flooded yesterday so we can't leave to look for food."

According to the Philippine Red Cross, a total of 183 flights had been cancelled and five airports closed, and there were power outages in 16 provinces.