Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes in the Philippines after a super typhoon battered the country’s Visayas and Mindanao Islands.

Super Typhoon Rai, locally named Odette, made landfall on 16 December in the north-eastern section of Mindanao before crossing the central-southern Philippines, causing extensive damage.

At least 156 people have been killed and a further 275 injured as of 21 December, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

37 people have been reported missing while more than 400,000 are sheltering in evacuation centres after fleeing their homes.

The storm is the strongest to hit the Philippines this year, packing winds of up to 195km (121 miles) per hour and gusts of 260km/h, bringing with it torrential rains, landslides, and storm surges.

It is feared that the actual number of casualties could be much higher as the storm wiped out power lines and communications networks in many areas, some of which remain disconnected. Media reports have put the death toll in the hundreds.

Shortage of drinking water

Since the storm struck, there have been reports of widespread flooding and landslides, as well as a shortage of drinking water in some areas.

Rai made nine landfalls in 7 provinces, with 5 regions most severely affected – Surigao Del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Bohol, and Cebu.

The Philippine government said that 997, 665 people had been affected, while a Reliefweb analysis estimated that the number could be more than 15 million.

The super typhoon comes at a time when many in the Philippines are still recovering from the devastation caused by earlier floods and storms, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It also caused a mass vaccination drive to be postponed, leaving millions of people living in the typhoon’s path more vulnerable to Covid-19.

Islamic Relief’s response

The disruption to communication and damage to infrastructure has made accessing and assessing the affected areas challenging.

However, Islamic Relief is working in partnership with local non-governmental organisations to meet the immediate needs of those affected.

“In the coming days, we will respond to hard-to-reach, outlying affected areas where very few humanitarian agencies are present, or to the geographically isolated and depressed areas (GIDA) in Caraga Region and elsewhere where Islamic Relief is needed the most,” Chris Estallo, strategic programme and partnerships manager at Islamic Relief Philippines says.

“Our emergency response aims to reach the least-served villages, hard-hit, vulnerable sectors of communities regardless of gender, race, or religion.”

“We are worried that another low-pressure area has been sighted on the Pacific coast which is likely to follow the same path and thus will affect the same communities and geographic area upon landfall,” Estallo says.

Islamic Relief is planning to distribute food, safe portable water, as well as soap and other hygiene essentials to help protect displaced people from Covid-19.

With heavy rains and flooding expected to continue in the coming days, we urgently need your help to support those affected by Typhoon Rai. Please donate to our Global Emergencies Fund.

*Image shows a young boy near homes destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Super Typhoon Yolanda, which struck the Philippines on 8 November 2013.