ReliefWeb - Updates

ReliefWeb - Updates

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ReliefWeb - Updates

Philippines: DSWD DROMIC Report #1 on the Taal Volcano Phreatic Eruption as of 13 January 2020, 8AM

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 05:52:01 +0000

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Source: Government of the Philippines
Country: Philippines

Situation Overview

At 5:30 PM 12 January 2020, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has raised alert level 4 over Taal Volcano, indicating that hazardous eruption is possible within hours to days. In its 7:30 PM advisory, the agency reiterated total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and additional evacuation of areas at high -risk to pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami within a 14-kilometer radius from the main crater. PHIVOLCS warned that areas in the general north of Taal Volcano to stay alert against effects of heavy and prolonged ash fall.

Source: PHILVOCS (Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology)

I. Status of Affected Families / Persons

A total of 3,456 families or 15,540 persons were affected by the phreatic eruption in Region CALABARZON (see Table 1).

II. Status of Displaced Families / Persons Inside Evacuation Centers

There are 3,456 families or 15,540 persons taking temporary shelter in 61 evacuation centers in Region CALABARZON (see Table 2).

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Philippines: Flash Update No. 1 - Taal Volcano Eruption, Philippines - 13 December 2020

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 05:48:55 +0000

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Source: ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance
Country: Philippines

  • The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised the alert level of Taal Volcano, located about 60-km south of Manila (left photo above), to Alert Level 4 yesterday, 12 January 2020 at 1830h. Alert Level 4 means that a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours or days. Intense unrest began with steam-driven activities inside the main crater yesterday afternoon, which progressed into magmatic eruption – characterised by weak lava fountain accompanied by lightning and thunder, early this morning.

  • Intensified eruptive activities in the main crater generated a 10 to 15-km steam-laden tephra column, with frequent volcanic lightning. The plume (right photo above) resulted to ash fall, reportedly reaching as far as north of Manila. A total of 75 volcanic earthquakes were recorded within the area, as of 0400h today. According to PHIVOLCS, such intense seismic activities probably signify continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity.

  • Based on historical records, Taal Volcano erupted 33 times since 1572 prior to this event, with the last eruption on October 1977. While there were occasional unrests in the years that follow, increase in volcanic activities leading to this eruption started to be observed in March 2019.

  • The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) advised concerned regional centres to closely monitor the situation and take appropriate actions. Evacuation of residents near the volcano are being conducted by local authorities.

  • Authorities advised the general public of ash fall-related health hazards, and recommended staying indoors. N95 face masks are reportedly experiencing a shortage in Metro Manila. Due to the ash plume, Manila Airport was ordered closed until further notice. Reopening might commence once Manila airspace clears and deemed safe for aircrafts. Local authorities also announced suspension of classes and work in areas near the volcano, and those affected by the ash fall.

  • The NDRRMC Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) conducted a coordination meeting with relevant stakeholders this morning. Coordination lines with subnational authorities are continuous, and updates from the field are relayed accordingly.

  • Current Government priority is evacuation of residents inside the danger zone and management of evacuation centres. At present, the management of this event is still within local capacities.

  • The AHA Centre is continuously monitoring the event and will issue updates should there be any significant development.

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Philippines: MMDA deploys rescue team to Batangas

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 05:47:23 +0000

Source: Government of the Philippines
Country: Philippines

By Jimmyley E. Guzman

Published on January 13, 2020

MAKATI CITY, Jan. 13 (PIA)--The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) deployed on Monday morning a contingent of 30 personnel in response to Batangas Provincial Government’s call to provide immediate assistance to the residents affected by the eruption of the Taal Volcano.

“Following the directive of MMDA Chairman Danilo Lim and General Manager Jojo Garcia, we have dispatched a team composed of 30 rescue and relief personnel to take part in the mass evacuation of affected residents,” said Michael Salalima, head of the MMDA Public Safety Office and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Focal Person.

The MMDA also dispatched three military trucks, three ambulances, two fire trucks, 10 portable water purifiers, self-contained breathing apparatus, compressors and refiller.

Since Sunday, the MMDA has been coordinating closely with Batangas and Cavite PDRRMO for any assistance needed in relation to the current condition of the Taal Volcano. (MMDA/PIA-NCR)

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Philippines: DSWD DROMIC Report #21 on Typhoon “URSULA” as of 12 January 2020, 6PM

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 05:28:03 +0000

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Source: Government of the Philippines
Country: Philippines

Situation Overview

“PHANFONE”entered the PhilippineAreaof Responsibility (PAR)on 23 December 2019 and was named “Ursula” as the 21st Philippine tropical cyclone for 2019. On 24 December 2019, “Ursula” intensified into a typhoon as it moved toward Eastern Visayas; hence, also affecting Northeastern Mindanao, Bicol Region, Central Visayas, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA and Western Visayas. On 28 December 2019, “Ursula” weakened into a Tropical Storm (TS) and exited PAR.

Source: DOST-PAGASA

I. Status of Affected Families / Persons

A total of 784,469 families or 3,271,512 persons are affected in 3,061 barangays in Regions MIMAROPA, VI, VII, VIII and CARAGA (see Table 1).

II. Status of Displaced Families / Persons

a. Inside Evacuation Centers

There are 640 families or 2,762 persons taking temporary shelter in 85 evacuation centers in Region VI (see Table 2).

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Pakistan: 14 die as snowfall, rain wreak havoc in Balochistan

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 04:01:14 +0000

Source: DAWN Group of Newspapers
Country: Pakistan

Saleem Shahid | Aamir Yasin

QUETTA / ISLAMABAD: Heavy snowfall and showers claimed at least 14 lives in different parts of Balochistan and suspended road and air links of the country’s largest province with rest of the world on Sunday, as the unusually extreme weather system entered Pakistan.

With a strong westerly wave affecting most parts of the country, snowfall is also expected in Khyber Pakh­tunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir, besides heavy showers have been forecast for Islamabad as well as upper and central Punjab from Monday till Tuesday morning, according to the meteorological department.

Met officials said heavy snowfall in Quetta had already broken the 20-year record. “In Qilla Saifullah, the Met Office recorded three- to four-foot snow, which was [more than] double the usual one- to 1.5-foot snow,” said Chief Meteo­rologist Dr Azmat Hayat Khan.

An aircraft that had arrived from Saudi Arabia with passengers on Saturday night could not fly back, as Quetta airport runway remained covered with heavy snow, sources said.

Coming from KP, Sindh and Punjab, hundreds of passengers were stranded on different highways linking Balochistan. The Quetta-Karachi highway was blocked at Luck-Pass area, Quetta-Sibi highway was closed for traffic between Kolpur and Mach, as the area continued to receive heavy snowfall.

Official sources said traffic was also suspended at Quetta-Chaman highway as the Khozak-Pass linking Pakistan with Afghanistan also received heavy snowfall, bringing halt to the Afghan transit trade as hundreds of trucks and other goods vehicles remained standard on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border.

While the passengers stuck up in the Kan Mehtarzai area were rescued by army troops and Frontier Corps personnel who removed snow from the highway, many others coming from Dalbandin towards Mashkel were not as fortunate after heavy rainfall with flash floods hit most parts of Chagai district. Soon after receiving information through local WhatsApp groups, Levies Force and FC personnel rescued a few people but could not reached the point where a majority of them have been waiting for help since Saturday night.

Chagai Deputy Commissioner Fateh Khan Khajjak said their own vehicles were stranded when he along with Levies Force personnel reached the Kaachar area and rescued 13 people.

“Several people with their vehicles are still waiting for help but unfortunately those areas cannot be reached without helicopter. I have made a request for provision of the helicopter to the provincial disaster management authority. Hopefully, it would be provided to us as soon as possible,” Mr Khajjak said.

Around two dozen passengers, including women and children seated in four vehicles, were trapped in the far-flung area of Kaachar close to Pak-Iran border. Official sources said army and personnel of Frontier Corps were making efforts to rescue them.

They said army troops and FC personnel had reached many other areas badly affected by continuous heavy snowfall and started rescue and relief operation along with workers of the Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (PDMA) and local administration. PDMA officials and workers also provided food, water and blankets to the passengers who were rescued.

The regional transport authorities and deputy commissioners of various districts have warned people against travelling on the Quetta-Karachi highway. They said roads were blocked at various points due to heavy snowfall in Kalat, Mastung, Surab, Zehri and many other areas.

The new spell of heavy snowfall that started on Saturday night in Quetta continued with small intervals in Ziarat, Kan Mehtarzai, Muslim Bagh, Sanjavi, Khanozai, Zhob, Qila Saifullah, Qila Abdullah, Kalat, Mastung, Harboi, Surab, Khuzdar and many other areas of northern Balochistan.

According to the reports reaching here in Quetta, due to continuous snowfall a large number of mud houses had collapsed or were damaged, claiming lives in the border town of Chaman, Barshor and Bostan area of Pishin district. Six people, including three women and three children, died and two others were injured when roof of their house collapsed in Shahabzai area of Zhob district due to heavy snowfall.

In Killi Luqman area near the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman, five members of a family, including women and children, died and six others were injured when the roof of a mud house collapsed during an engagement ceremony in the late evening hours. Two children died and two others suffered injuries when the roof of the room caved-in in Killi Chukal area of Pishin district, while another woman lost her life in a similar incident. Sources in Civil Hospital Quetta said that over a dozen people injured in snowfall-related traffic accidents were brought to the hospital for treatment.

Heavy rains were also reported in Makran division that fills up Mirani, Shadi Kur and Akra Kur, Sward and Bilar dams in Gwadar and Kech districts. Water level in the seasonal rivers of Dashat and Nehag as well as other small rivers had risen after the catchment areas of these rivers received heavy showers. “There is no sign of danger,” a senior official of the irrigation department Sher Jan Baloch claimed.

He said there were reports that a small dam was broken in the Mand area of Kech district, which damaged mud houses. However, he added, no human loss had been reported yet.

The spillways of the dams were opened to release floodwater after filling of all the dams in the area.

According to the Met Office, heavy rain in northwestern parts of Balochistan may continue to generate flash flooding in Turbat, Kech, Panjgur, Kalat, Quetta and Awaran districts. Quetta, Harnai, Ziarat, Qilla Abdullah and Pishin may also witness heavy snowfall on Monday.

When contacted, Chief Meteorologist Dr Azmat Hayat Khan said it was unusual pattern of weather due to global warming. He said the extreme weather system had produced heavy rainfall in the UAE and snowfall in Tabuq area of Saudi Arabia a few days ago. He said the extreme weather system could cause heavy showers and snowfall in Balochistan.

He said the winter season may be prolonged and more rains expected in March and April also. He said the minimum temperature during this whole period would remain low.

According to the Met Office, heavy rains may trigger landslides and avalanches in Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Malakand and Hazara districts. There is also the risk of road closures due to heavy snowfall and rains in the districts of Swat, Kohistan, Shangla, Buner, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Murree, Galyat, Neelum, Bagh, Haveli, Rawalakot, Astore, Hunza and Skardu.

Behram Baloch in Gwadar and Ali Raza Rind in Chagai also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2020

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Tonga: Tonga Measles Outbreak 2019-20 - Situation Report #13

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 03:11:04 +0000

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Source: Government of Tonga
Country: Tonga

1. Summary of Situation

Background

The outbreak of measles in Tonga began in early October 2019, following the return of a national youth team of Tongan rugby players from New Zealand. The index case developed measles while in New Zealand. Subsequently, a further 12 teammates developed laboratory-confirmed measles. The early outbreak involved mainly teenagers from associated schools on Tongatapu and Vava’u Islands. Since the initial two waves of the outbreak, cases were widely reported in all age groups but are now waning.

An inter-disciplinary Ministry of Health Epidemic Task Force (ETF) meets weekly to advise on management of the outbreak. In addition to routine outbreak response activities, a time-limited vaccination program targeting secondary school students and 6-11 months’ infants has been completed.

Note: Refer to earlier SITREPS for further detail of the initial cases and response.

2. Current Situation

There is ongoing transmission on the Islands of Tongatapu and Vava’u; the last case onsets on Ha’apai, ‘Eua, and Niuatoputapu island were 14/12/2019, 08/12/2019, 14/11/2019, respectively [Table 1]. Since the last situation report, 6 new measles case-patients were reported in Tongatapu and Vava’u and 12 cases were added retrospectively to the cumulative number of cases. They were 14 males and 4 females between the ages of 2 months and 22 years old.

As of 9 Jan 2020, 630 confirmed or suspected cases of measles have been identified in Tonga including 43 labconfirmed cases. The majority, 545 (87.8%) cases have occurred on Tongatapu, and 65 (10.3 %) have occurred on Vava’u Island. Case presentations have been reported to be mild with 19 hospitalisations and no death. The majority of the cases have been managed by home isolation and all patients have been discharged. Given the duration of illness is typically less than 2 weeks, it is estimated that at least 99% of the 630 reported measles cases will have already recovered from their illnesses.

Figure 1 (below) shows the epidemic curve for the current outbreak in Tonga. Most of cases (blue) were reported from the Island of Tongatapu.
Figure 2 demonstrates the breakdown of cases by gender. Consistent with early transmission through male boarding schools, most cases have been among males, with the proportion of cases among females increasing as the outbreak progressed. A total of 102 cases have occurred in children aged less than 5 years, while cases among adolescents and young people continue to form the majority of the cases in this outbreak - 492 (78%) cases occurring in people aged 10 to 24 years (Table 1 and Figure 3).

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Pakistan: No new Polio related Travel Restriction, Minister for NHSR&C ‘The global community recognizes Pakistan’s efforts to overcome the current challenges’

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 03:02:36 +0000

Source: Government of Pakistan
Country: Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, 10 January 2020 –

Clarifying news item published in few segments of press, Dr. Zafar Mirza, Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination has out rightly denied the impression of any new Polio related travel restrictions on Pakistan. ‘The WHO Emergency Committee recommendations (not travel restrictions) were first made in May 2014 and have since then been periodically reviewed and extended for all countries infected by Polio virus’, Dr. Zafar said in a statement on Friday.

Pakistan had a challenging year for Polio eradication in 2019. As of today, 134 of our children have been paralysed by this debilitating disease. The government has put in place a comprehensive plan to reverse the situation in 2020 starting with the roll out of a successful nationwide Polio vaccination campaign in December. This was stated by the spokesperson of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination while responding to the News items published in different sections of press on reporting of the new Polio cases.

Commenting on the WHO IHR Emergency Committee recommendations regarding vaccination of international travellers from Pakistan and other infected countries, the spokesperson shared that these were made in 2014 to prevent the transmission of virus from infected countries to other areas. ‘Pakistan implemented the same immediately as a responsible member of the international community and has been doing so since then’, he remarked. It was further shared that over 500,000 international travellers from Pakistan receive Polio vaccine every month prior to departure and the certificate issued in this respect is valid for 12 months. Around 180,000 travellers of all ages are additionally vaccinated every month at Pak-Afghan border crossings. The spokesperson completely denied the reports of any additional recommendations imposed by WHO committee for the incoming international visitors traveling to Pakistan.

Pakistan Polio eradication programme faced special challenges in 2019 which led to resurgence of Polio cases during the year. The programme however, conducted a critical analysis of the situation and devised a comprehensive strategy to overcome challenges in sustainable manner. ‘Our fight back has already started through the successful December NID that was inaugurated by the Prime Minister in the federal capital and all Chief Ministers in respective provinces. A total of 40 million under 5 year age children were successfully reached and vaccinated to protect them against the crippling virus, stated Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre.

The National EOC has planned an aggressive case response from 13th January targeting around 12 million <5 children in currently infected districts. This will be followed by two NIDs in February and April and another strategic response round during March. ‘All these efforts will plug the immunity gaps and significantly reduce the transmission intensity by mid-2020 setting the stage for the final push towards Zero’, he added.

Dr. Zafar Mirza, Minister of State for NHSRC stated that the Government of Pakistan under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, was fully cognizant of the existing challenges and the urgency to overcome them. ‘Besides the ongoing programme transformation in high risk areas, the Government was working across political divide to take the agenda forward as a shared priority. Besides extensive community engagement, the Ministry of NHSRC has already moved on integration of the Polio programme with EPI to quickly improve routine immunization coverage particularly in the high risk areas. Forty super high risk UCs have further been identified within core reservoirs for a laser focus where a broader package of services will be delivered aiming improvement of basic health services, nutrition as well as the safe water and sanitation by broadening partnership’ the Minister stated.

Dr. Mirza also informed that the transformation plan and the roadmap was shared with Global leadership including the Polio Oversight Board that expressed it’s confidence on it and reassured Pakistan of the fullest support to achieve a Polio free Pakistan and the World.

Note to Editors:

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system, and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunizations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio free.

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Northern Mariana Islands (The United States of America): Storm-damaged CNMI school to be completely rebuilt

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 02:32:43 +0000

Source: Radio New Zealand International
Country: Northern Mariana Islands (The United States of America)

A middle school on the Northern Marianas island of Saipan, which was devastated by Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018 is to be completely rebuilt.

Read more on Radio New Zealand International

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Philippines: Philippines: Taal Volcano Eruption (As of 12 January 2020)

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 02:29:46 +0000

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Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: Philippines

459,300: Total population within 14 km danger zone

931,400: Total population within 17 km danger zone

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Pakistan: Last year’s 135th polio case reported from Sindh

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 02:28:14 +0000

Source: DAWN Group of Newspapers
Country: Pakistan

Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD: The tally for polio cases across the country in 2019 has reached 135 as one more child has been infected with the virus of the crippling disease.

The new case has been reported from Sindh province’s Thatta district, Mirpursakro tehsil, Gujjo Union Council. “The 34-month-old boy’s upper and lower limbs of left side have been paralysed. His socioeconomic status has been declared poor as his father is a farmer and it remains difficult for him to make ends meet,” an official at the National Institute of Health said.

“Though we are in the year 2020, but as the sample was collected on Dec 26, 2019, therefore the case has been placed in the list of last year,” he said.

Coordinator for the National Emergency Operation Centre for polio Dr Rana Safdar told Dawn the field investigations would be done on Sunday (today).

Starting tomorrow, case response round of polio campaign will target 12m children living in high-risk districts

“Thatta has already been included in the case response round of the polio vaccination campaign, which will start from Monday (tomorrow) and target around 12 million children residing in districts with all recent detections,” he said.

After a successful nationwide polio campaign in December, he said, the case response round would give quick immunity boost to children in areas with current risk.

“The February campaign would thus provide a third vaccination opportunity to these children significantly mitigating the associated risks. Efforts from December-April will bridge the immunity gap that leads to a significant decrease in intensity of virus transmission in the second half of 2020,” the official claimed.

According to the website of the polio programme, as many as 135 polio cases have been reported in 2019, compared to 12 in 2018 and only eight in 2017.

The provincial data for 2019 shows that 91 polio cases have been reported from KP, 25 from Sindh, 11 from Balochistan and eight from Punjab.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus and mainly affecting children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, his/her protection against the virus is increased.

Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio free. However, there are only two countries in the world — Pakistan and Afghanistan — where polio cases are being reported. Pakistan remains under a polio-linked travel restriction imposed by the World Health Organisation due to which, since 2014, every Pakistani travelling abroad has to carry a polio vaccination certificate.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2020

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Pakistan: 2 killed as aircraft spraying pesticide for locusts crashes in Cholistan

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 02:24:54 +0000

Source: DAWN Group of Newspapers
Country: Pakistan

Malik Irfanul Haq

Two people were killed after an aircraft tasked with spraying pesticide for eliminating locusts crashed in Cholistan's Tillo Bangla area in Sadiqabad tehsil on Sunday.

The deceased were identified as Shoaib Malik, the pilot, and aircraft engineer Fawad Butt, both of whom were officials of the Federal Plant Protection Department. Both died instantaneously as the plane crashed into the ground, according to the district administration.

Initial investigations suggest the plane crashed due to a technical fault, said the district administration, adding that the bodies were being shifted to Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Rahim Yar Khan.

Rahim Yar Khan Deputy Commissioner Ali Shahzad said the two men had been tasked with spraying pesticide in Cholistan in order to eliminate locusts. He said that the aircraft had taken off from Sheikh Zayed International Airport on Sunday morning.

In a statement, National Food Security and Research Minister Khusro Bakhtiar expressed his deep sorrow over the incident.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the young men who lost their lives in the line of duty. Their invaluable services will be remembered forever," he said.

The plane was spraying pesticide in the area to tackle another wave of locust attacks, which began in Dec 2019, on the request of the district administration.

In 2019, widespread heavy rainfall during March and April in Balochistan created ideal ecological conditions for a rapid increase in the number of locusts.

In anticipation of the outbreak, the Punjab government had directed officials to thwart a possible attack by conducting large-scale aerial and land spraying of pesticide.

However, in November 2019, reports surfaced that one of the reasons why the pests had not been eliminated was because the department responsible for the task, the Directorate of Locusts Control, Islamabad, was stocking expired pesticide.

Additional reporting by Amin Ahmed

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Philippines: Philippines: Taal Volcano eruption - Information Bulletin

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 01:44:38 +0000

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Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies
Country: Philippines

The situation

On 12 January 2020, the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (DOST- PHIVOLCS) raised an Alert Level 4 after increasing activity of Taal Volcano, which is located on the island of Luzon in Batangas, CALABARZON (Region IV-A). An Alert Level 4 means that a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days; and warrants a “Danger Zone” of up to 14 kilometres from the Main Crater. Taal Volcano is amongst the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, with more than 30 reported eruptions. According to DOST- PHIVOLCS, eruptive activity at Taal Volcano Main Crater has intensified, with continuous eruptions generating a 10 – 15 kilometres of steam laden cloud of super-heated ash, with frequent volcanic lightning that has rained wet ashfall as far as Quezon City, some 100 kilometres away.

Volcanic tremors have been reported, with volcanic earthquakes measuring magnitude 2.5 and 3.9 felt at Intensity III (Weak) in Batangas province. As of 19:00 hrs (local time) on 12 January 2020, power supplies in areas of Batangas in the vicinity of Taal Volcano have been disrupted, and roads are impassable. Taal Volcano is situated on Volcano Island, an island near the middle Taal Island, and is listed as a “Permanent Danger Zone”, with permanent settlement on the island not recommended. Though a larger volcanic eruption at Taal is currently unlikely, precautionary evacuations of at-risk communities living the cities of Lipa and Tanuana; as well as municipalities of Agoncillo, Balete, Cuenca, San Nicholas and Talisay with a combined total population of approximately 161,427, have been initiated on the advice of DOST- PHIVOLCS. Total of nine (9) evacuation centres (EC) have been established. Areas north of Taal Volcano are being advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. It is expected that eruptions could continue for up to three months, and impact on the provinces of Batangas, Cavite and Laguna, as well as nearby regions including Metro Manila.

In Metro Manila, light ash fall has been reported, which may result in traffic disruptions. The Manila International Airport Authority has announced that all flights are on hold at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), including both arrivals and departures due to volcanic ashfall. Local Government authorities (LGA) across Metro Manila have begun to recommend staying inside due to the potential respiratory issues from the ashfall, while municipal authorities have also begun announcing class suspensions from 13 January 2020.

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Australia: Australian bushfires: how we’re using funds

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 01:23:38 +0000

Source: Australian Red Cross
Country: Australia

Our plan to help people and communities recover well.

The Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund was set up to enable Red Cross to help people prepare for, cope with and recover from disasters – whenever and wherever they happen.

This summer we’ve seen unprecedented bushfires and unprecedented generosity in response. The fund has been open since 1 July 2019 and by 12 January 2020, it has reached over $60 million and counting.

Schoolchildren are saving up their pocket money and donating it. Workplaces are collecting hundreds of thousands from staff contributions. People all over the world are using their ingenuity, influence and platforms to rally support for Australians.

Donations to the fund have already powered our nationwide response to the bushfires since they began in September.

This is the next part of our plan for how we will use these funds to respond to disasters and to support bushfire-affected communities in their recovery.

We are all in ever-changing waters

Red Cross has been responding to Australian disasters for more than a century, and we have never seen fires of this scope and breadth. The impacts are not only felt in the loss of lives, thousands of homes, wildlife and places that are sacred and special; but also in the physical and emotional toll of smoke in the air, extreme heatwaves and fires that will keep burning for months.

That’s why our plan must adapt.

It will evolve as we go, informed by needs as they arise. It will be part of a bigger effort by government and others, to make sure collective funds go as far as possible and do the most good for people hit hardest by the fires.

What will guide us?

  • What affected people and communities tell us they need
  • Building on people’s immense strength, resilience and community spirit
  • Balancing what people need right now and what will help in the months and years to come
  • What we’ve learned about recovery from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, 2018 Townsville Floods and other events
  • Advice from independent experts

To start with, we’re using $15 million to help people meet immediate needs.
This includes initial cash grants for everyone across Australia who has lost their home to bushfires since July 2019. That’s just the beginning. More financial assistance is being planned and we’ll start to announce it soon.

At the same time, our response to the ongoing fires continues.

Whether it’s shelter and relief supplies for people who are stranded, information and psychological first aid at evacuation centres, or phone calls and home visits in communities trying to clean up and rebuild, we’ve been coordinating a multifaceted response to hundreds of emergencies across every state and territory.

The reality is, the situation will continue for months, compounded by drought and extreme heat. The money that has been raised for the fund will continue to ensure our emergency teams are resourced and ready for wherever they’re needed.

We commit that all funds donated to Disaster Relief and Recovery from July 2019 will be used only for our emergencies work in Australia.

We’re investing in a tailored recovery program over three years or more.

Disaster recovery can take years and is unique to each individual. Recovery includes regaining a sense of control and having a plan; rebuilding or replacing what’s lost, where possible; and finding your way to a ‘new normal’ and a life you have good reason to value.

The right support can go a long way. That includes cash assistance at various points, having someone to talk to, trauma counselling and mental health support, good social networks, access to good information and services, and a connection to community.

Our recovery program will address all these things in ways that are unique to each community. Needs assessments by Red Cross and other agencies will shape it. We will use volunteers and employ key staff to ensure a program of this scale is run well.

More cash grants to affected people and communities are critical, so that people can make choices that are right for them and their families. We will announce further financial assistance as we progress.

No more than 10 cents in the dollar will go to necessary support costs.

This ensures we can pay grants promptly, collect and analyse information from communities, meet legal, privacy and protection obligations to meet immediate needs as well as scaling up to support our recovery work. We’re doing everything we can to keep these costs to an absolute minimum, including seeking pro bono support.

We’ll keep you informed of our plans and spending at every step.

We will use this money with integrity and we’ll show you how and why we’re using it. We want you to see your generosity at work. Above all, we want it to make a genuine difference to the recovery of those most impacted by the bushfires.

Thank you for all you have done.

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Thailand: Falling water levels deliver a taste of things to come

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 01:19:11 +0000

Source: Bangkok Post
Country: Thailand

The public and private sectors are racing against time to counteract likely drought

WRITER: PHUSADEE ARUNMAS, LAMONPHET APISITNIRAN & NARUMON KASEMSUK

Saltier tap water in parts of Bangkok is a harbinger of the much-feared drought, with the brackish taste stemming from how the Chao Phraya River's level has become too low to keep out seawater.

With the growing ominous signs, this year's drought is expected to be the worst in four decades, says the Thai Meteorological Department.

According to the TMD, this year's drought will be caused by the same weather pattern that resulted in lower-than-average precipitation falling across Thailand last year.

The central region will be hit the hardest, especially the 22 provinces along the Chao Phraya basin. Nakhon Sawan, with over 70,000 rai of rice fields, and Kamphaeng Phet are likely to suffer the most from the drought.

Despite a slew of short-term measures to deal with the water shortage, including the deployment of extra tanks to drought-hit areas and the drilling of wells for groundwater extraction, the anticipated drought will more than likely rattle agricultural and industrial sectors that largely depend on water supplies for production.

IMPENDING HARDSHIPS

Internal Trade Department director-general Whichai Phochanakij said the drought is expected to bring about a low supply of farm products, particularly hom mali fragrant paddy, white rice paddy, limes, fresh vegetables, pork and bottled cooking palm oil.

Among the agricultural sub-sectors, crop production is the most important. It accounts for 60% of total agricultural production.

The department itself is now preparing measures such as offering specially discounted products through 102,000 Thong Fah (Blue Flag) low-priced shops nationwide to alleviate the hardship of consumers who are likely to face rising prices for farm products due to the anticipated drought.

According to Mr Whichai, who recently chaired a meeting of the subcommittee handling reference prices for the state's rice price guarantees, the country's overall annual paddy production for both the main and second crops is forecast at 27-28 million tonnes in the 2019-20 season, weighed down by a drop in production for the second crop because of flooding and drought.

Paddy production for the second crop is forecast to fall by more than 50% in the 2019-20 season to 3.4-3.5 million tonnes, from 7.75 million tonnes the previous season, due to drought and inadequate water supply from dams.

Production from the main crop is forecast at 24 million tonnes of paddy, down 4-12.5% from 25-27 million tonnes the previous season.

Because of lower production, the prices of hom mali, white and glutinous paddy are likely to increase, Mr Whichai said.

Prices of hom mali paddy are now quoted at 14,000-15,000 baht per tonne, with glutinous paddy at 14,000 baht and white paddy at 8,000 baht.

Vegetables and fruits that require large amounts of water, such as parsley and limes, could also see an impact.

The department is working with the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to promote other crops that require less water.

Mr Whichai said the dry spell will not only affect the growth rate of pigs, but endanger their lives as well.

In addition, widespread swine virus in China, Laos and Vietnam has drawn strong demand for imported pork, he said, adding that Thailand has shipped 6,000-8,000 pigs per day to the three countries.

Ex-farm prices are now quoted at 75 baht per kg.

MITIGATION PLANS

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on has acknowledged that the current rain patterns are frenetically volatile, leading to unusually low water levels in major reservoirs and rivers.

Especially last year, areas along the Chao Phraya River, which flows into the Gulf of Thailand, experienced inadequate water supply and used more water than the annual allocation planned by the Royal Irrigation Department (RID), resulting in the saltwater intrusion into the Chao Phraya River that affects the quality of water both for consumption and agricultural purposes.

According to Mr Chalermchai, the ministry is now revving up construction of an additional 421 water storage facilities covering new large, medium-sized and small-scale water source projects, including kaem ling water catchment areas, in the fight against the looming water shortage.

The new storage facilities will increase water capacity by 942 million cubic metres, he said, adding that up to 1.23 million rai of new irrigation areas will benefit from the move.

In the long run, the government must expand water storage capacity because the country cannot rely on existing facilities.

Up to 40,000 ponds, each with a capacity of 1,260 cubic metres, will be created for farmers working in irrigation areas in a bid to "delay aridity", according to Mr Chalermchai.

Artificial rainmaking operations are also being planned to cover 25 river basins in 77 provinces. The operations are expected to benefit 230 million rai of farmland.

According to the ministry's water management plan during the dry season, the Royal Irrigation Department plans to allocate a total of 28.239 billion cubic metres of water nationwide during the dry season from Nov 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020.

Of the total water allocation, 2.3 billion cubic metres will be slated for consumption, 7.006 billion for ecological conservation, 10.54 billion as water reserves until the beginning of the rainy season (May-July 2020), 7.874 billion for farming during the dry season and 519 million for industry.

BACKBONE SECTOR

Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said the private sector is concerned about the adverse impact of drought this year.

The agricultural sector is expected to suffer the most from the severe conditions.

"It is the backbone sector to mobilise the country's GDP with crops, livestock and food products," Mr Supant said. "Thailand has many commodities; rice, rubber, palm oil. The drought situation will decrease farmer's incomes and purchasing power."

The industrial sector is also set to suffer from the drought, but many factories and industrial estates have formulated backup plans for internal water management and disaster crisis management.

"In the big picture, the country's food and processed food industries will be affected because of this situation," Mr Supant said. "These sectors contribute much to the country's economy in terms of domestic consumption and exports."

Jirayut Rungsrithong, president and chief executive of Eastern Water Resources Development and Management Plc (EW), an industrial water supplier, said the company plans to reduce water supply capacity by 10% during the drought period.

EW is a water supplier for industrial operators in Thailand's eastern region.

"The company has prepared for water reserves for factories amid the drought," Mr Jirayut said. "They will not stop their operations. EW plans to upgrade pump stations from Bang Pakong River in Chachoengsao province to increase water volume for industrial estates there."

The company is building a connection of water pipelines in Rayong province to supply the utility from Prasae and Khlong Yai reservoirs to Nong Pla Lai reservoir, Mr Jirayut said.

EW's supply in Rayong is using untreated water pumps from Thubma pond to serve demand from factories.

Viboon Kromadit, chief executive of industrial estate developer Amata Corporation Plc, said the company will invite industrial operators from two industrial estates in Chon Buri and Rayong for the latest drought update and outline water management on Jan 29 and Feb 6, respectively.

"Both industrial estates have more than 1,000 factories that Amata is supplying with water utilities," he said. "Amata has water reservoirs to serve them, and we have confidence in water reserves to supply roughly 18 months amid the drought."

WATER TREATMENT

Piyaman Tejapaibul, managing director of The Regent Group, said the tourism industry is not suffering from drought by comparison with the agricultural sector. Most standard hotels have applied water-saving measures to reduce operating costs.

Normal practices, such as replacing all sanitary wares for an eco-friendly model and reuse of water after treatment for hotel gardening, have been conducted regularly, Mrs Piyaman said.

For example, The Regent Cha-Am Beach Resort, which spans 100 rai, has ponds that can supply water for consumption.

The bigger concern of hoteliers situated along the beach is coastal erosion from rising sea levels. If this situation persists, tourists will shift their travel plans to other places.

This may be the case in Cha-am already. According to an arrival survey, Phetchaburi province has dropped from fourth to the sixth most popular destination in Thailand. One of the contributing causes is deteriorating scenery.

Naphaporn Bodiratnangkura, managing director of Sampatilert Co Ltd and Nai Lert Group, said Park Nai Lert in the centre of Bangkok has to implement water-saving methods to counter a shortage of water supply.

As the property owns a vast green space of 20 rai, the natural pond within the site is used for watering the garden once a day, except during the rainy season when the process is skipped an plants absorb natural groundwater. To preserve the environment and consumption, the hotel also has an in-house water treatment system.

Additional reporting by Pitsinee Jitpleecheep and Kanana Katharangsiporn

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Sri Lanka: Situation Report - Sri Lanka 12th January 2020 at 1800hrs

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 01:07:18 +0000

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Source: Disaster Management Centre of Sri Lanka
Country: Sri Lanka

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Thailand: Govt calls on farmers to stop growing rice in off-season

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 01:00:55 +0000

Source: Government of Thailand
Country: Thailand

BANGKOK (NNT) - The government has called on farmers to stop growing rice in the off-season to save water for personal consumption. Three million rai of land in the Chao Phraya River basin has already been used to grow rice in the extra season, but is yet to be provided with water.

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon has delivered policy for the steering of the National Water Directorate, which has been following the overall water situation and introducing measures to alleviate problems. So far, 18 provinces have been declared drought-affected zones and 54 others have been declared "at risk" of lacking sufficient water for consumption and agriculture.

Gen Prawit said there is a reduced volume of water this year, particularly in the Chao Phraya River basin where the water supply will only be sufficient for consumption, and should be used very sparingly for agriculture; plants which consume less water should be grown instead. The government has taken measures to provide enough water for the people’s consumption and ordered the drilling of more artesian wells.

Meanwhile, the Office of National Water Resources has integrated operational plans to prevent drought in the 2019/2020 season by preparing reserves of water for consumption in areas at risk of being hit by drought. This water will be provided to hospitals and for cash crops.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Ministry of the Interior will take measures to contain the adverse effects of drought on rice grown in the extra season while farmers would receive compensation payments for any damage to their rice farms due to drought.

Information and Source
Reporter : Tewit Kemtong
Rewriter : Tarin Angskul
National News Bureau & Public Relations : http://thainews.prd.go.th

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Thailand: Authorities plan to drill 704 more artesian wells

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 00:58:33 +0000

Source: Government of Thailand
Country: Thailand

BANGKOK (NNT) - The Department of Groundwater Resources, plans to drill an additional 704 artesian wells to provide more water to supply village-based tap water schemes nationwide.

Over 1,000 households in Si Khiu district of Nakhon Ratchasima province, currently need water for consumption since the village’s pond has run dry, prompting Provincial Governor Vichian Chantharanothai to have water pumped in from Lam Takhong dam and provided to the villagers to initially address the problem.

The provincial governor followed up on the situation in the drought-hit area and ordered Si Khiu district to distribute water on a continual basis to some 1,000 village households. The authorities now plan to install water pumps to bring water from Lam Takhong dam to the village’s pond, a 16-kilometer distance, beginning tomorrow. It is expected to take 15-days for the dam water to reach the villagers. In the meantime, water is being distributed to the villagers who have been advised to use it very sparingly.

Groundwater Resources Department Director Genera, Sakda Vichiansilp said today the department had set up a center for drought relief last November, and has prepared permanent spots nationwide to distribute water for consumption around the clock. He also confirmed that an additional 704 artesian wells will be dug as a complementary measure to ensure the viability of the village-based tap water supply.

Information and Source
Reporter : Tewit Kemtong
Rewriter : Tarin Angskul
National News Bureau & Public Relations : http://thainews.prd.go.th

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Bangladesh: Japan Supports CNRS to Construct Multipurpose Resource Center for Agricultural and Disaster Management in Sunamganj

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 00:56:00 +0000

Source: Government of Japan
Country: Bangladesh, Japan

On 9th January 2020, the opening ceremony of “The Project for Construction of Multipurpose Resource Center for Agricultural and Disaster Management in Tahirpur” was held at Tahirpur in Sunamganj district, which was implemented by Center for Natural Resources Studies (CNRS) with support from the Government of Japan through Grant Assistance for Grass-roots Human Security Projects (GGHSP). Mr. Mohammad Abdul Ahad, Deputy Commissioner, Sunamganj, Dr. M. Mokhlesur Rahman, Executive Director from CNRS and a representative from the Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh attended

CNRS was awarded the grant for its “Project for Construction of a Multipurpose Resource Center for Agricultural and Disaster Management in Tahirpur” in the Tahirpur Upazila of Sunamganj district. Agriculture is the main livelihood option for the people living in this highly flood-prone area. Upon completion of the construction of the Multipurpose Resource Center, CNRS will be able to provide seed storage for at least 1000 farmers for free, shelter for about 300 people during times of emergency, and training for 6,600 beneficiaries annually.

Japan has supported 194 NGO projects through its Grant Assistance for Grass-roots Human Security Projects (GGHSP) since 1989 with the view to enhance economic and social human security in the grass-roots level. The total grant assistance of GGHSP extended to NGOs in Bangladesh to date amounts approximately to $ 15 million.

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Afghanistan: Severe Winter Weather Claims More Lives In Afghanistan

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 00:01:04 +0000

Source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Country: Afghanistan

Nineteen people have been reported killed as a result of extreme winter weather in parts of Afghanistan, officials said.

Officials told RFE/RL on January 12 that the victims were killed the previous day in Herat, Kandahar, and Helmand provinces amid heavy snowfall and low temperatures.

The overall death toll from this year's cold snap now stands at 24, and officials cautioned it could rise further.

Temperatures fell to minus 12 degrees Celsius in parts of the country on January 11.

"We are now expecting more cold waves in the coming weeks," Mohammad Nasim Muradi, head of the forecasting section of the government meteorological service, told Reuters.

Heavy snow has closed many major roads since the beginning of the year, including the Salang Tunnel and the Kabul-Kandahar Highway.

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Zambia: Urgent food supplies needed to reach families facing hunger crisis in Zambia

Sun, 12 Jan 2020 23:10:42 +0000

Source: ActionAid
Country: Zambia

By Amar Nayak, roving global humanitarian adviser at ActionAid

Zambia is facing an unprecedented food crisis. More than 2.4 million people are affected and at least 430,000 people are experiencing severe food insecurity described as just one level below famine.

Families are surviving by reducing the number of meals they eat a day, which is already leading to high levels of malnutrition.

A huge decline in Maize production due to drought, is behind the emergency, with prices soaring and reaching an all-time high last November, 90% higher than in 2018.

This week, along with district officers and ActionAid Zambia’s partner organisation, Keepers Zambia Foundation, we visited villages in the western part of the Nalolo district.

Southern and western areas of Zambia are most affected by the crisis. In 2018-2019, southern Zambia saw its worst rainfall season since 1981. In the western province, 44% of the total population – 409,891 people – are in what is classed as ‘crisis phase’.

This means families are experiencing high levels of acute malnutrition and wasting. They may be using harmful coping strategies such as selling off livestock and assets, child labour and migration, which will have a negative impact on livelihoods in the long term.

We met with members of eight community welfare assistant committees (CWACs), formed by the district government to coordinate social welfare programmes. Although they remembered severe droughts in 1992 and 1994, they said this is worst ever.

They described a desperate situation facing families in the villages, who have resorted to crisis coping strategies, eating wild fruits such as Mawawa, Mubula, Rosewood and roots of a grass called Zita.

Many of the community members complained about stomach problems, headaches, skin irritation and nausea. We met the health assistant of the Rural Health Centres in Malumbe, who said that many women and children came to the centre with stomach problems and this is due to eating too much of these fruits and Zita.

Food shortages have led to women going without food so they can give what little they have to their children. One woman said she would give food first to the children and men, if anything is left, she would eat last. Most of the time she goes without food or eats very little.

The food crisis is also impacting children’s education. Teachers said that the school dropout rate has been very high since November and that girls are dropping out in large numbers.

Women we met with also raised concerns about an increased in incidences of domestic violence.

Maize is the staple food for families in the region and the crop has completely failed due the lack of rains.

There is a huge dependence on maize crops due to the aggressive promotion of various maize varieties by the seed companies and the dealers.

This has been at the expense of other food crops. For example, the families have not grown more drought resistant crops like cassava or other crops like millet.

We also understand that the families have no money to buy the certified maize seeds and mostly depend on the black market to buy low-quality seeds.

Most of the farmers said the seeds they tried to plant after the rain did not germinate well. They have lost hope that they will get anything from their land this season.

As these villages are in very remote locations and have no road network to reach them, the families who did have money to buy food find it difficult to access local markets. The cost of carrying supplies from the nearest market is very high and the price of the food is soaring.

The situation is forcing young people to migrate to neighbouring Namibia in search of work.

Later this week, ActionAid Zambia in collaboration with the District Disaster Management Unit, District Social Welfare Department and our local partner, Keepers Zambia Foundation, will distribute maize and beans to 200 families.

But many more families are in desperate need of food supplies. If an intervention is not planned soon for the families who are on the margins of survival, their situation will further deteriorate and there is a risk of famine.

ActionAid Zambia’s communications and campaigns manager, Sharon Mwamba, spoke to women desperately trying to find enough food for their families to survive.

Nalishebo Nalishebo said that her family and her fellow community members are eating wild fruits known as mawawa, mubula and rosewood because of drought, low harvest, failed crops and the increasing price of maize meal.

Maize meal is the community’s staple meal and they have gone for more than 21 days without eating this.

As a substitute, people have been uprooting wild grass locally known as zita, which grows in open wet areas such as swamps. The roots are then cleaned and dried, pounded and then cooked for the family to eat.

Nalishebo like many others in the community explained that it is now common for people to experience stomach aches and skin irritation upon eating either wild fruits, zita roots or wild mushrooms.

But she said her family has no other choice because they cannot afford to buy food due to the poor harvest as they would have done if they had good rain in the previous rainy season.

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