17 December 2014: Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF), the Inmarsat-sponsored telecoms agency, has entered Eastern Samar in the Philippines to provide crucial emergency communications in the wake of Typhoon Hagupit.
TSF has been on standby since 8 December to help families left homeless by the typhoon, known locally as Ruby, and to coordinate aid.
Following assessments of the towns spanning Borongan to Artechi, many of which were destroyed by floods and landslides, TSF reported that mobile networks had been established but there was no internet connection – crucial for the coordination of aid operations for people in isolated and impoverished communities.
ICT support teams have now connected three of the worst-hit towns – Borongan, Oras and Dolores – by positioning Inmarsat BGAN terminals in the city hall and hospital in Dolores and in the municipal buildings of the other two towns. In Dolores and Oras alone, over 84,000 people have been affected by Hagupit.
In a message to TSF, the Mayor of Dolores said: “Your vital connection allows us to send and receive damage assessment reports to and from other municipalities and NGOs such as yourself – this is so important so we know what the needs are and where they lie. Your big hearts and even bigger help mean that my town council can bring help to my people.”
Inmarsat’s satellite communications are also being utilised by NGOs who have set up invaluable telecom coordination centres in council buildings – there are currently 18 organisations in Dolores alone, including World Vision, Save the Children and Islamic Relief.
From here, reports and assessments between head offices, field teams and working groups can be shared in order to begin the process of rebuilding the livelihoods and homes of those affected by the disaster.
In addition, TSF’s Humanitarian Internet Communications Centre is offering the people of Dolores the chance to contact their friends and families across the region of East Samar to checkif they are safe using tablets which have access to free high-speed internet via BGAN.
When the typhoon, which was eventually downgraded to a tropical storm, swept across the country it left many islands and provinces inaccessible by land, sea and air, making it impossible for those who have lost their homes to contact worried relatives and friends.