This blog post was written by guest blogger John Baekelmans, Chief Technology Officer for Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities organization in the U.K. In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, John volunteered in the Province of Samar, in the community of Daram, the Philippines, from May 1 to 17, 2014.
I am sure most of you remember the deadly Typhoon Haiyan at the end of 2013. Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, which devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, on November 8, 2013. It is the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing at least 6268 people in that country alone. Haiyan is also unofficially the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed. As of January 2014, bodies were still being found.
I know this because I was there. In addition to my day job as CTO for Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities program, I also lead Cisco’s Europe, Middle East, and North Africa Disaster Incident Response Team and am a volunteer in the National Disaster Fast Response Rescue team called V-MED of Flanders, Belgium. Having been an officer in the Fire Brigade in Belgium gave me the opportunity to join this fast-response rescue team. I have been to many major disasters around the world in the past 10 years — in Myanmar, Haiti, Pakistan, Chile, and many other places. Haiti was the worst in devastation and personal impact, but Haiyan came close because of the level of poverty and the lack of primary needs.