The Human Impact

Notes from weather-battered eastern Mindanao

A loud bang woke me. I realised after a few seconds it was the sound of the long bamboo pole that held down the tarpaulins sheltering me banging against the balcony outside my room with ferocious force.

Then came the piercing sound of the wind. It was here in eastern Mindanao – in a small two-storey house recently repaired after Typhoon Bopha blew away its roof – that I truly understood what a “howling” wind was.

As my phone buzzed with text messages warning of a Signal 1 storm (defined by the Philippine agency that forecasts and monitors storms as a tropical cyclone with winds of 30 to 60 km per hour) I watched people in flimsier shelters struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Some tarpaulins that had been weighed down by stones and bamboo or nailed onto roofs were coming off and flapping in the wind.

It was Saturday, Jan. 19, and it had been raining heavily for 24 hours when the wind picked up. Little did we know the grim weather would continue for another 12 hours.

By midmorning the next day, the area’s Cateel River had swollen so much that it had started to flood communities along its banks. Water was lapping at the sides of the road, and families who had recently returned to patch up homes that were damaged and destroyed by Bopha fled yet again.

Insecurity hinders aid distribution in northern Mali

As Mali tries to restore order after the recent coup, a key challenge for the interim civilian government will be getting aid to people as the country verges on a humanitarian disaster.

Dioncounda Traore took over as Mali’s interim president on Thursday after leaders of a March 22 coup agreed to return power to civilians. Nearly 80 percent of Malian territory comprising the northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal is under the control of a mix of Tuareg-led rebels, who have declared an independent state in the north, and armed Islamic groups.

Aid agencies say about 100,000 internally displaced people urgently need assistance including shelter. Residents of some northern towns say they are trapped without food, water, electricity, money and medical care.

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