Los Baños, Philippines – The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) continues to repair extensive damage caused last Thursday (September 28) by the worst typhoon in more than a decade to hit the world-famous agricultural research center.
IRRI’s home province of Laguna was devastated by Typhoon Xangsane (known locally as Milenyo), with the eye of the category-four storm passing directly over IRRI and its host town of Los Baños. “Our thoughts are with our neighbors and all those in the local community who suffered so much because of the storm, and who continue to suffer,” IRRI’s Director General Robert S. Zeigler said. “We are doing everything we can to help them.”
In Los Baños, the typhoon left 18 people dead, 20 people injured, 5 people missing, and more than 3,000 homes either partially or totally destroyed. In the neighboring town of Bay, 3 people were killed and 20 injured, and more than 16,000 homes affected (as of October 2). Particularly devastating was a landslide on the slopes of Mount Makiling – where some IRRI facilities also stand – which swept away several families and their homes.
“Fortunately, no IRRI staff were lost during the storm and we had no major injuries, but scores of staff had their homes badly damaged by floods and wind and many are still struggling to make repairs,” Dr. Zeigler said. “There is still no power and very little tap water, with the Institute continuing to function thanks only to its generator plant.”
With wind gusts of up to 160 km per hour and an estimated 112 millimeters of rain, the typhoon hit IRRI just as work was starting on Thursday morning. With the Institute already closed, most staff stayed home to protect their families and property, but some IRRI staff volunteered for emergency relief and rescue work.
“I would like to recognize and salute on behalf of the Institute the IRRI Emergency Rescue Team, which saved a local family and four adults from certain drowning at the height of the storm,” Dr. Zeigler said. “Their bravery was but one of many examples of IRRI staff’s very special commitment and professionalism during this disaster.”
Despite the widespread destruction around the Institute, Dr. Zeigler said the research campus escaped relatively lightly. “Some of the glasshouses were severely damaged, but the main research buildings, the gene bank, and the library did not suffer any significant damage, while our support services such as our Internet and telephone connections narrowly escaped major damage.”
However, a school on the Institute’s campus managed by Brent International School suffered serious water damage, forcing the students to be relocated, while housing for IRRI’s foreign staff also had several roofs partially stripped off, with resulting water damage to the interiors. Several houses also suffered damage from falling trees, with three houses being slightly affected by landslides that eroded the area around them.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is the world’s leading rice research and training center. Based in the Philippines and with offices in 10 other Asian countries, it is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on improving the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and consumers, particularly those with low incomes, while preserving natural resources. IRRI is one of 15 centers funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an association of public and private donor agencies. Please visit the CGIAR website (www.cgiar.org) for more information.
For information, please contact:
Duncan Macintosh, IRRI, DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines; tel +63-2-580-5600; fax: +63-2-580-5699; email [email protected] .
IRRI Home (www.irri.org),
IRRI Library (http://ricelib.irri.org),
Rice Knowledge Bank (www.knowledgebank.irri.org).