Back to ease agony 10 months later

He was one of the first to embark on a relief mission to the Philippines when it was hit by Typhoon Bopha, which killed more than 280 people in December last year.

That was the first time Mr Muhammad Shafiq, 24, has seen such large-scale destruction.

Now, barely 10 months later, the recent chemistry graduate is set to go for another Singapore Red Cross (SRC) mission to earthquake-stricken Cebu and Bohol islands, again in the Philippines.

Mr Shafiq will leave today, with five team members.

This is part of an emergency relief effort to assess the situation and help local authorities, the SRC announced on Thursday.

Like the others in the team, he was notified only on Wednesday.

"I read about the earthquake in the papers and it looked bad," said Mr Shafiq, who is planning to take a course in disaster management and relief conducted by SRC.

"So when the Red Cross called me on Wednesday to go (for the mission), I immediately agreed. It's like being on an operationally-ready list."

He said: "I'm not there to help because I pity their poverty and suffering. I help because it is my duty to be there."

Another member of the team, Mr Chew Lip Heng, 47, said they do not even know what they will be doing yet, as formal briefings will be held only when the team hits the ground running.

The businessman had to convince his wife and daughter before agreeing to the mission.

RED CROSS MISSIONS

Said Mr Chew: "They are used to me disappearing for Red Cross missions by now.

"That's why I have a 'ready bag' with all the essentials for when there are local and overseas emergencies like this."

He was in Bandar Aceh after the earthquake and tsunami in 2004 and also in Manila to help after floods. The Philippines has been hit twice in the past week.

Last Friday, Typhoon Nari battered the northern part of the country and left several areas without power and with damaged roads and homes.

On Tuesday, the magnitude-7.2 earthquake struck the Cebu and Bohol islands in the south. The death toll so far is 144 for the quake and 15 for the typhoon, said the SRC.

Based on Mr Shafiq's past experience with the Filipinos, he believes they are resilient as they have battled many disasters before.

He said: "They face natural disasters yearly, but all they say to it is, 'It happens, just be happy for each day (you are alive).'

"It made me feel that we (in Singapore) are indeed financially and geographically blessed."

More than $100,000 worth of relief items from SRC will be sent to the Philippine authorities. This includes food, hygiene products and medical supplies.


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