24 February 2006

United Nations Continues Assistance in Philippines

NEW YORK, 24 February (OCHA) -- The latest reports from the Philippines National Disaster Coordinating Council indicate that there are now a total of some 980 missing, 122 dead, 17 injured and 560 survivors of the landslide that hit the village of Guinsaugon in Southern Leyte Province on 17 February.  3268 families, or about 16,342 individuals, have been affected.  Some 601 families (2,926 individuals) have been evacuated to designated evacuation centres.

The Philippine Geosciences Bureau estimates the landslide is four meters deep and covers an area of approximately 3 square kilometres (1.15 square miles).  The National Disaster Coordinating Council reports that the landslide was up to 9 metres (30 feet) deep in some places.

There are currently eight evacuation centres in the vicinity of St. Bernard, which are housing approximately 2,975 people, including the former residents of Guinsaugon, those from two neighbouring villages that were partially affected by the original landslides, and those from villages in the vicinity that have been pre-emptively evacuated.  Two of these centres have been opened in recent days, in efforts to address concerns of overcrowding in the six original centres.

Pre-emptive evacuations have taken place in three other municipalities of Southern Keyte -- Sogod, Liluan and San Francisco -- where geo-hazard assessments indicated that there were high levels of risk of additional landslides.  Work is currently under way to confirm the number of families that have been evacuated in these municipalities.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council reports that the total number of personnel from national and international agencies pursuing search and rescue operations and providing relief and medical services has risen to 1,846.

The logistics working group has developed a strategy to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of supply management.  The Department of Social Welfare has requested that the working group ensure that the Mayor's office is prepared to manage the process, after the departure of relief organizations.

Two United Nations Disaster and Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) team members continue to support coordination in St. Bernard.  Another member of the team supports the Tacloban logistics hub.  The UNDAC team leader will accompany the Deputy Executive Director of the National Disaster Coordinating Council to Guinsagon and St. Bernard tomorrow.

The United Nations Country Team has developed a 10-point action plan for supporting the Government in the areas of response, contingency planning, recovery and long-term preparedness, and disaster risk reduction.  Work is ongoing to mobilize resources to support the utilization of in-country technical expertise in these areas.

Emphasis is being placed on improving the water, sanitation and health services in the evacuation centres.  Cases of mumps, conjunctivitis and respiratory problems have been reported.  A multi-agency team assessed two of the eight centres yesterday, and will continue these assessments today

For further information, please call:  Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679; Kristen Knutson, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570.

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