Typhoon relief efforts aided by satcoms

28 September 2018: Inmarsat satellite connectivity supported the emergency response in three regions of the Philippines battered by Typhoon Mangkhut.

Over 100 people were killed as a result of the storm, which hit the north of the country on 16 September. In the worst single incident, two villages were engulfed in a landslide triggered by extreme weather conditions.

With terrestrial communications knocked out, government Rapid Emergency Telecommunications Team (RETT) relied on high-speed, high bandwidth Global Xpress to coordinate rescue operations from its regional communications hub, while villagers who escaped the landslide used BGAN broadband terminals and IsatPhone 2 satellite phones to call loved ones to let them know they were safe.

Direct path

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Pre-positioned satellite communications kit was also used in Cagayan province – in the direct path of the 127mph (205 km/h) typhoon – and in the remote northern archipelago of Batanes to transmit situational reports to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) command centre. Other government bodies including the Department of Health and Office of Civil Defence also deployed BGAN terminals in the wake of Mangkhut to support relief efforts.

The storm, the worst so far of 2018, affected an estimated 900,000 people in the Philippines. Over 160,000 took shelter in evacuation centres.

Inmarsat is working with the DSWD to improve disaster response in the country, which is prone to extreme weather events, in a connectivity project under the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP). The IPP is a £152 million initiative funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to partner the UK’s space expertise with developing and emerging countries to deliver sustainable economic or societal benefits.

Effective control

Five regions have the emergency communications kits in place, enabling relief agencies and first responders to get information in and out of disaster zones much more effectively and provide the Philippines government with the capability to restore communications and increase command and control of recovery operations.

Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) is partnering Inmarsat on the project, providing training to RETT personnel. The emergency telecommunications NGO also deployed to the Philippines following Typhoon Mangkhut, supporting rescue organisations and setting up a Global Xpress link on Batan Island for the benefit of the local community.