The Philippines gets about ten typhoons a year, and like most of Asia, they are both dreaded and considered part of life.

Right now, the sun is shining, but everyone is worried about Typhoon Mina, aka Mitag, which is moving very slowly off the coast of the central Philippines.

We are busy finishing the harvest in case we get hit by rain: something that is likely in the next day or two since the latest forcasts show the Typhoon is turning toward the north and may hit the rice growing areas north east of Manila.

Right now typhoon Mina is almost Category 3, but it’s slow movement over the warm sea makes the danger of another “sypertyphoon” likely. And of course the slow motion makes rain and flooding more likely to be a problem.

As a precaution, authorities are having planned releases from a dam in nearby Bulacan, flooding local villages, because they worry that heavy rain will completely destroy the dam.

But to those in the direct path, the combination of wind, storm surge and major flooding can be lethal. As a precaution, the Philippine government has evacuated almost a million people in Bicol and other nearby regions, The area is still recovering from a smaller typhoon last week, and no one wants to risk a tragedy similar to last year, when over 1000 people died in typhoon related mudslides in Albay.

This evacuation could save many lives, but with the typhoon moving slowly, there is a worry about keeping people in evacuation centers for days, and worries that food and clean water will run out, and that disease will spread. Already some villages in Catanduanes are isolated because the roads are blocked by mudslides.
Here in Luzon, the heavy typhoon related rain is coming at the end of the rice harvest season: Our cook summarizes it this way: Poor people, rain, hungry.

You see, rain at harvest time can spell disaster and hunger for many farmers. Newly harvested rice needs to be dried, and the usual “cheap” method of drying the rice on roads cannot be done if it is raining. Unharvested rice can be destroyed by wind and flooding. And flooding can destroy the newly stored rice.

So keep the Philippines in mind when you say your prayers, and keep an eye on CNN or BBC. If you hear nothing, you know we have survived another typhoon without major problems. You see, successful evacuations, flood control, supplying folks with food water and shelter don’t get headlines.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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