By Caroline Haga, IFRC, Photos by Joonas Brandt, Finnish Red Cross

Their motto is ‘Always ready. Always there. Always first.’ And that is what the Philippine Red Cross staff and volunteers were when typhoon Rosita – internationally known as Yutu – threatened their islands at the end of October.

It is 6 am on 30 October and the wind howls eerily in the northern parts of Luzon island. Typhoon Rosita descended two hours earlier 160 kilometres away and continues to barrel towards the centre of the island. A few hours later, the eye of the storm passes the small city of Bambang in the province of Nueva VizCcaya bringing with it severe winds and heavy rain.

In the local Red Cross Chapter close by it is busy. Volunteers and staff are monitoring the movements of the typhoon, contacting villages for damage updates and preparing to assist as needed. They’ve been on alert for 72 hours already. Chapter Administrator Randy G Blanco oversees the operations.

“I fear that Rosita will affect us worse than typhoon Ompong a month ago. The combination of heavy rains and winds could cause flash floods and landslides,” he explains as many of the province’s towns are in mountainous areas.

Elderly couple saved from flooding

The typhoon has brought down trees and electricity poles, torn off roofs and damaged buildings, destroyed crops and strewn debris everywhere. The relentless rains continue even as the winds have passed.

Suddenly there is an alert. The rains have caused rivers to overflow and people are trapped in their homes by the flooding. The volunteer rescue team springs into action. Their red rescue boat is towed to the shore and they set out on their rescue mission.

A short while later there’s a sigh of relief as an elderly couple has safely been rescued from their home. Their house was in the middle of a rice field and the water rose so quickly that they didn’t have a chance to flee. Now they are safe and taken to an evacuation centre where another Red Cross team provides hot meals to all evacuees.

The typhoon has left extensive material damage, and it will take a long time for the families to be able to repair their houses, rebuild their businesses and regrow their crops. The Philippine Red Cross will be there to support them for as long as needed.

“Always ready. Always there. Always first.”