Typhoon's devastation biggest seen by Kiwi aide

JENNA HOUGHTON
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013

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Within 24 hours of getting the call, New Plymouth man Mike Langford was on a plane to the Philippines, to help Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts.

Mr Langford has been volunteering for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) for the past four years, but said the typhoon - which claimed 6000 lives - was the biggest disaster he had responded to.

"The level of devastation is something I hadn't seen before.

"Just driving around, we could see houses flattened by wind, power cables and phone lines strewn across the roads, power poles not fallen but snapped off.

"And still a lot of stagnant water in fields," he said.

"It was sad to see the state of people's houses. People lost family, friends and livelihoods as well."

The 46-year-old spent 16 days at a base in Roxas City, as the logistics and security manager, organising and distributing food, water and hygiene kits to families in the region.

Mr Langford estimated ADRA distributed 40,000 kilograms of food, which was purchased locally when available to support the economy.

Volunteers also worked with locals to help teach them what to do in emergency situations, and to ensure recovery efforts would continue once ADRA's emergency response teams had left.

However, with the high rate of disasters in the Philippines, Mr Langford felt the locals had a positive attitude.

"They'll say ‘Yeah okay, let's just get on with it'," he said.

Although Mr Langford lived on rice and stayed in a house with minimal electricity and water, he said he found the work rewarding.

"I'm quite fortunate that my wife sees the work done as essential. I get a lot out of seeing people and giving packages to those happy to have some support."

A particularly touching moment was having a visiting doctor approach him to say he appreciated the work being done.

Mr Langford, who works for AsureQuality in New Plymouth, is also a Civil Defence operator and said his experience in emergency relief could be benefit Taranaki should a disaster happen here.

Mr Langford pursued work in emergency management after his work at the Taranaki District Health Board, where in 2005 he made preparations for the H5N1 virus.

Relief efforts are transitioning from response to recovery in the Philippines, but help will be required for a long time yet.

Donations can be made at adra.org.nz.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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