Philippine Government Links Typhoon to Climate Change, Delegate Declares Hunger Strike

With the Philippines still reeling from Super Typhoon Haiyan, another tropical depression with "erratic movement" made landfall Tuesday morning, complicating the already stalled relief efforts. The situation is now so bad that the Philippine President, Benigno Aquino, declared "a state of calamity" in order to hurry up the aid — while his government unequivocally linked the disaster with climate change, and urged other world powers to make a climate deal, and quickly.

"We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway," said Yeb Sano, head of the government's delegation to the UN climate talks, which started in Poland today. On Monday, Sano announced that he would go on a hunger strike until UN negotiations lead to a significant deal.

"What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness," he said. "The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw. Typhoons such as Haiyan and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action."

Twenty-two countries have now pledged assistance to the devastated island nation, where the storm left an estimated 10,000 people dead over the weekend and another 660,000 people displaced. Officials have confirmed 2,500 people were wounded and 82 are currently missing, as well. In total, officials reckon that roughly 10 million people were affected by the cyclone — eyewitnesses have said the worst-affected areas are not unlike the wreckage left by 2004's Boxing Day tsunami. 

“In the coming days, be assured -- help will reach you faster and faster,” Aquino said. “The delivery of food, water and medicines to the most heavily affected areas is at the head of our priorities.” 

To make matters worse, the Wall Street Journal reports that officials are now worried that limited access to clean drinking and bathing water will lead to illnesses such as eptospirosis, a bacterial infection people get after ingesting rat urine, and which can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure and respiratory problems. 

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On Tuesday, the United Nations launched an urgent aid appeal hoping to raise the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to help survivors. "The scale of devastation is massive and therefore it will require the mobilisation of a massive response," said John Ging, the UN's humanitarian operations director, adding that the death toll was likely to rise further. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has likewise launched an appeal for $94.6 million, which would provide 100,000 families with clean water, food and shelter over the next year and a half. 

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"It will be a long road to recovery,” said Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.

The U.K. is sending a ship and a transporter plane to assist with the relief effort following the typhoon, and the U.S. has already sent in planes, water, generators, and a contingent of Marines. On Tuesday, Japan announced it would also send troops to the Philippines, as well as $10m in emergency aid. 

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The second storm to hit the Philippines, tropical depression Zoraida, made landfall in the southern island of Mindanao earlier today, but has luckily been given the lowest storm alert signal, meaning rainfall should be moderate to heavy, but not much worse. 

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One of the most frustrating things about watching a disaster like this happen from the comfort of your couch is feeling helpless. There's not much one can do from across an ocean, but charitable organizations are constantly looking for people to send as little as ten dollars. For example, UNICEF, which is getting ready to deliver supplies to children and their families in the Philippines, takes online donations. The U.N. World Food Programme, which is providing emergency food relief, also accepts donations online, as does the American Red Cross

Image: Croix-Rouge Suisse via Flickr

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