NRECA Raises $120K for Typhoon VictimsBy Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer Published: February 19th, 2014
“I never saw anything like the total devastation I’ve seen here,” Michael J. Guidry said of the post-typhoon situation in the Philippines.
And that speaks volumes, considering that when he was general manager of South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association, Guidry oversaw post-disaster restoration efforts from hurricanes Katrina, Gustav and Ike.
“The destruction is degrees of magnitude greater. People are coping…but the reconstruction challenge is simply overwhelming,” he said.
Guidry, a former NRECA Board president, and Martin Lowery, NRECA executive vice president, toured parts of the Philippines devastated by last fall’s Supertyphoon Haiyan. During the visit, they awarded more than $120,000 raised by the NRECA International Foundation to help 11 co-ops rebuild their leveled systems.
Donations to the Philippines Typhoon Relief Fund from U.S. co-ops and individuals will help recipients defray reconstruction costs of low-income members and other economically disadvantaged residents.
Guidry and Lowery also met with officials from PhilRECA, the country’s equivalent to NRECA.
“The devastation is pervasive, even after three months of recovery work,” said Lowery. In Leyte, one of the three towns, “virtually every roof was destroyed in the storm, leading the people on Leyte Island to coin the phrase, ‘Roofless but not hopeless.’”
Estimates to rebuild electric systems damaged by the Nov. 10 typhoon could exceed $120 million, according to the Philippines’ National Electrification Administration, an agency that operates much like the Rural Utilities Service. Of the island nation’s 119 electric co-ops, 33 sustained significant damage, and 11 were nearly destroyed.
Even now, power restoration in the hardest-hit areas surrounding Tacloban is about 40 percent, said Lowery. “Electric service is a first priority for stable planning. Without [it], many who left after the storm will not return. With full service, many will come home and begin the massive work of building the housing stock.”
While the RECs are sharing line crews, a shortage of materials is a major impediment to electric reconstruction, said Lowery. About $120 million will be needed to replace poles, conductors and other critical equipment, he said.
Despite the difficult recovery process, people are coping, said Lowery. “There is a strong semblance of normal daily activity if such a thing is possible. Optimistic quotes that we have heard are ‘Build back better’ and ‘Rise up Tacloban.’”
Other typhoon-related aid involving the NRECA International Foundation has included a “rapid damage assessment team” to help relief and recovery efforts in the days immediately after the storm.