Monster Typhoon in the Philippines - it's not just our disaster


Donate directly to the Philippine Red Cross Emergency responders are already providing hot meals and relief items
Save the Children "We deployed a rapid response team to Tacloban and will be distributing emergency kits"
World Food Programme Working with government to restore telecoms and sending fortified biscuits
Good links and advice about giving from Rappler 
You've probably heard by now that over the weekend, the Philippines was devastated by a typhoon of such monstrous proportions that concrete buildings collapsed and tsunami-like storm surges drowned shoreside towns and villages.

To the right is information on how you can help. Thank you in advance for your compassion


Two summers ago, my son Jack, then seventeen, spent more than a month working with other young people at
the Coral Cay Conservation project in the Philippines. It was hard work and they lived in very basic conditions. But it was a magical experience.

Young people watching the sunset at the Coral Cay Conservation project. PHOTO: JACK GOURLAY
Their quarters were right next to the sea wall. Every now and then there would be a cry of TIKI! TIKI! (Whales!) as whale sharks appeared in the water. Everyone would jump into the sea to swim with the whales.

Thanks to Leyte Divers site for this image hurriedly borrowed from your gallery.
This experience in that poor backwater of the Philippines, on the island of Leyte, meeting so many welcoming people and seeing mind-blowing undersea life, has probably changed Jack's life.


And now we hear that it was this island that bore the brunt of the typhoon and most of the early, terrible, terrible photos in the news are emerging from Leyte. But the storm hit many islands. Communications are down and we have yet to hear from cities and islands that Yolanda scythed through.

Satellite imagery of Typhoon Haiyan as it hit the Philippines (you can see the islands outlined in purple below the black bits. International weather watchers named it Haiyan, a Chinese name for a sea bird. But in the Philippines the typhoon is called Yolanda.

From here in London, I watch the Filipino news on YouTube and wring my hands. My friends, who've seen reports of the storm on British TV and horrific images on the internet, have been posting messages of sympathy on my Facebook wall, asking: how can we help?

My Facebook Profile Pic
Well, the best I can do at the moment is put up links to organisations (see yellow box above) we can trust to deliver aid to the victims of the storm. I've also posted links on my Facebook profile, and changed my profile picture to a tattered flag flying over Leyte, to show my support and raise awareness about the disaster. Such little things, but from this distance, it's all I can do.

Here's this morning's front  page of the Philippine Inquirer, the paper I used to write for when I lived in the Philippines:


Several times now when I've visited schools, the teachers have invited me to give a special talk to Geography students about the Philippines.

I have to distil what I know about my country into a 30 minute presentation. I always begin by showing them this terrific video showing a tourist-eye-view of the Philippines.

If you can't see the video, view it here

Then I tell them the things that a tourist would not be bothered to know - one of which is that Filipinos live with calamity - floods, storms, earthquakes ... I recently learned that five percent of our economy is wiped out every year by natural disasters.

Five percent of the Philippine economy is wiped out every year by natural disaster.

And though luck has a lot to do with it - our islands sit on a major earthquake fault and on the edge of the Pacific ocean,  right in the path of yearly storms - the storms are not entirely dealt by fate because Climate Change means the warming of the surrounding oceans means our storms are going to become more and more violent.

(We) know that the strength of tropical storms such as Haiyan ... is linked to sea temperature. As the oceans warm with climate change, there is extra energy in the system. Storms may not be increasing in frequency but Pacific ocean waters are warming faster than expected, and there is a broad scientific consensus that typhoons are now increasing in strength ...Typhoon Haiyan, like Bopha, will be seen widely in developing countries as a taste of what is to come, along with rising sea levels and water shortages. John Vidal in the Guardian


In times of disaster we all feel helpless and ask: what can we do?

But more than sending a donation to the Red Cross, more than changing one's profile picture on Facebook and posting updates on calamity, perhaps we ought to dig deeper and ask ourselves what role we plan to play in this unfolding story.

We ought to dig deeper and ask ourselves what role we plan to play in this unfolding story.

Filipinos, we are going to have to help each other.

Government officials, be strong, be honest, resist temptation.

And friends in the Developed World, yes, send what you can but most of all please, don't forget us. Keep Climate Change on the world agenda. You have the power to do it.

Last week I watched a programme on TV that declared the Philippines, with its recent swift growth, one of the new tigers of Asia. It felt like our luck was turning.

I wish it really was only about luck.

Philippine tourism advert in Saturday's Guardian as we woke up to the bad news

My thoughts also go to Vietnam where Typhoon Haiyan will be making land fall tonight.