Hope from Typhoon Haiyan

The successful evacuation of a tiny island community in the path of a devastating storm illustrates the important of preparedness in averting disaster.

2013’s Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded. It proved particularly devastating for the Philippines, where it was known as Typhoon Yolanda, with over 6000 lives lost in that country.

The tiny island of Tulang Diyot in Cebu Province was in the direct path of the storm. “The day before, when it was clear how bad the typhoon would be, we decided to evacuate all 1,000 people,” says Alfredo Arquillano, mayor of Cebu’s capital. “Because we’ve done so much work on disaster risk everyone fully understood the need to move to safety.” Years of work to strengthen community preparedness and reduce disaster risk – particularly through evacuation procedures and early warning systems – prevented a catastrophe for the residents of Tulang Diyot. All 1000 residents were evacuated from the island; all 500 homes on the island were completely destroyed.

The work continues: the island’s people are being assisted in finding safer new homes where they can continue to pursue their livelihoods as farmers or fishermen. The successful evacuation of this vulnerable community provides an excellent illustration of how global initiatives may be applied at the local level. “We have worked hard to localize the international agreement on disaster risk reduction, the Hyogo Framework for Action,” says Arquillano.

In the loss and devastation of natural disasters like Typhoon Haiyan, stories like this often go unnoticed, or even untold. A new award – The Understanding Risk Averted Disaster Award – marks a significant effort to bring these stories to light, so that their lessons might be learned and other communities kept safe. The Averted Disaster Award identifies and receives applications from individuals, project teams and organizations of all sizes, regions and industries whose successful DRM interventions have not been recognized.

If your organization or project meets this description, you’re invited to submit your applications here. The winning applicants will receive up to five cash grants and tickets to attend Understanding Risk 2022, the world’s largest forum for views and innovations in DRM globally. The intervention highlighted in the winning application will be featured in a documentary to be premiered at the event.