A shared disaster

Natural disasters? Aside from the odd forest fire, those don't affect the Columbia Valley.

Natural disasters? Aside from the odd forest fire, those don’t affect the Columbia Valley.

Being well out of reach of tsunamis and safely inland of the earthquake subduction zone that affects coastal B.C., valley residents likely have little connection to “super typhoon” Haiyan that slammed into the Philippines last Friday.

But this is not just another disaster in some far-flung region; it’s arguably the most violent weather event on the planet in the past 30 years. Much like 9/11 unfolded like a bad Michael Bay movie, the surreal imagery from the super typhoon seemed as though it was lifted from a special-effects-laden disaster movie.

With the death toll estimated at 10,000 and likely to rise, Canada’s response so far has been poor: just a $5 million commitment to help the Philippines — a country that’s been the largest source of immigrants to Canada since 2010, noted Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith in a recent column.

While grabbing a coffee at Tim Hortons on Monday, I spoke with one of the more than 10 Filipino temporary foreign workers employed at the restaurant. None of them were from the eastern Visayas, the region hardest hit by the typhoon that packed sustained winds of more than 300 kilometres per hour. Undoubtedly, those workers are thinking of friends and relatives back home. That’s likely the same story for all the Filipino workers in the valley.

It took two days of prodding before the federal government offered the same dollar-for-dollar matching of Canadian citizen donations for disaster relief in the Philippines as it did in the wake of the earthquake the struck Haiti in 2010.

The elephant in the room about this typhoon is the recent frequency with which these powerful storms have been occurring. No one can make a cause-and-effect connection yet, but it’s not hard to imagine that a warmer atmosphere — caused by an undeniable rise of global greenhouse gas concentrations — is fueling typhoons, cyclones, and hurricanes into more wicked versions of the storms coastal cities around the world have always known.

To donate, go to www.redcross.ca/typhoon or call 1-800-418-1111.