ITU has dispatched emergency telecommunications equipment to areas severely affected by Typhoon Haiyan—one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded—which tore through the Visayas region of central Philippines on Friday with deadly force, making landfall five times, in the provinces of Eastern Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Panay Island and Palawan. The combination of powerful winds and seawater has devastated buildings, communities and families.
Damage to critical telecommunications infrastructure has made rapid assessment difficult, and authorities are still determining casualty figures. Given the extent of the damage it could be weeks or months before physical telecommunications infrastructure is repaired or replaced.
In the meantime, satellite equipment provided by ITU to the Philippine authorities will help ensure that essential telecommunications services can be quickly provided through satellite, to enable much-needed support for search and rescue services as well as the need for families to re-establish contacts.
ITU has deployed 50 Thuraya satellite phones equipped with GPS to facilitate search and rescue efforts, along with 30 Iridium satellite phones, 20 Inmarsat Broadband Global Area Network terminals, and a Qualcomm CDMA base station. The equipment can be charged by car batteries and is also supplied with solar panels to enable operation during power outages.
In the immediate aftermath of the typhoon, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré expressed to the Government of the Philippines his profound sorrow at the loss of life, injuries and human displacement as well as the extensive damage to property and infrastructure. With the deployment of emergency telecommunications equipment, Dr Touré said “ITU is prepared to help the government and people of the Philippines in every way possible in their hour of need, and to deal with the colossal tragedy that has overwhelmed the country with unimaginable loss of life and property. I hope the deployment of emergency telecommunications equipment will assist the government of the Philippines in search and rescue operations and re-establish vital communication links.”
Re-establishing communications is a critical service, particularly in the immediate aftermath of disasters to ensure timely intervention and support for the victims, to assist in rescue and rehabilitation efforts and to enable families to re-establish links with loved ones.
“Our aim is to ensure that the national and international humanitarian community has reliable access to telecommunications to enable them to serve affected people and save lives,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU. “This disaster comes just after the first sitting of the Advisory Board for Smart Sustainable Development, a new initiative to ensure better preparedness and response in times like this. We offer our deep condolences to families who lost loved ones. I hope this equipment will help support ongoing work and we are ready to give immediate support during the rehabilitation of affected telecommunications infrastructure.”
ITU experts have been deployed to the Philippines and are working with the authorities to train first responders in the use of the equipment during search and rescue operations and for logistical support.