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Published: April 30, 2014

When Chinese national television station China Central Television (CCTV) needed risk advice, aid and logistical assistance to cover the disaster of Typhoon Haiyan, in the Philippines, it turned to international risk management specialist Pilgrims Group.

The tropical cyclone, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, killed an estimated 6,200 people and hit the country’s regions of Samar and Leyte especially hard. CCTV called Pilgrims within 48 hours of the typhoon making landfall. The disaster was of particular interest to Chinese viewers because the Philippines is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in South East Asia and the two countries have close links.

“Within two hours of receiving the call from the client, we had consultants flying from the UK and New Zealand,” says Dan Still, Senior Operations Officer for Pilgrims. “CCTV was relying on us to support them logistically and medically, so our team needed experience in setting up a logistics base and administering medicines in remote areas.”

CCTV’s operation was based in one of the hardest hit cities, Tacloban, a conurbation of 220,000 people which was laid waste by the typhoon, its basic infrastructure and communications systems entirely out of action. The broadcaster had a team of up to ten people who needed to be fed, sheltered and protected as they went about their work.

“We set up a logistics base in Manilla, providing vehicles, drivers, medical supplies, fresh water and food,” says Still. “Acting on advice from our local consultant, we found CCTV a safe house, provided them with close protection and provided advice on risk and a measured necessary response. The main risk was civil unrest. The population were clearly in a tragic situation, going without food and shelter. There was also the risk of aid convoys being attacked. These dangers diminished over the weeks we were with CCTV,” Still explains. “They covered the situation longer than most broadcasters as China was playing a major role in the relief effort.”

As international relief arrived, the situation on the ground steadily improved and Pilgrims was able to move its logistics base to Tacloban itself. After 21 days, the situation was deemed safe enough for CCTV to operate without the assistance of Pilgrims Group.