Hurricane Matthew - Haiti, 2016
The fiercest Caribbean storm in a decade, Hurricane Matthew, tore through the region and lashed into Haiti on October 4, 2016. Tens of thousands of people suffered, particularly those in areas where relief came slowly or not at all, with the double threat of cholera and hunger looming large.
Fuel Relief Fund First Response Team partnered with national and local fuel providers (including Petrogaz) to ensure fuel quickly reached the hands of those who need it most. Our First Response team targeted (a) individuals and families in the hardest hit areas; (b) first responders and critical community infrastructure (i.e. hospitals and police stations); and (c) relief partners such as the World Food Programme and the Red Cross that reach large numbers of people in need. Fuel was a lifeline for first responders and critical community infrastructure including hospitals, medical clinics, and police stations. Without a source of fuel, emergency services can come to a halt – which was the case in many areas of Grand Anse and Sud departments where destruction was the worst.
Ted Honcharik, FRF’s founder and First Response Team Leader, summarized his experience from Les Cayes:
I am writing this to you from Haiti, where I am in Les Cayes distributing fuel, the middle of one of the areas destroyed by Hurricane Matthew I just left the Immaculate Conception Hospital where doctors and medical staff were operating in darkness when we arrived some hours ago, with only the light of a candle. We provided them with fuel, and by the time we left, the generators were running again, and they now have enough fuel to run for at least two weeks until the local commercial suppliers are back in business. I can't tell you how good that feels and how shocking it was to walk inside a dark hospital. Like you may be, I am a businessman that delivers fuel to families all over the United States. Accessing and providing fuel is what I and my colleagues do every day, and sometimes I take the basics for granted - the lights go on, my trucks are running, my family is warm and safe. Here in Haiti, I am reminded of the fragility of life, and yet the power of connection, what a little can do to change a life. It's hard to believe that several hundred dollars would impact several hundred people's lives – even save that many lives! But it's true. I know because I am here with our volunteer first responders. Brave doctors keep going no matter what. With fuel, they can do their work with the power on. Children and the elderly can stay safer in shelters with the lights on. Families can stay warm through the night, and boil water to avoid cholera. Your partnership with us to deliver this fuel makes all this possible…. Thank you!
Ecuador Earthquake - 2016
A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Northern Ecuador on Saturday, April 16. Our team of Fuel Relief Fund volunteers was on the ground in Ecuador on Thursday, April 21, distributing fuel to individuals and families in hardest-hit areas of Ecuador's Manabí Province.
Our primary aim for the response effort was to reach 10,000 households in the affected areas with fuel relief. As with each of our response efforts, the type of fuel we provide varies according to local context and need. By Saturday, after meetings with local officials, the United Nations, and other key humanitarian agencies on the ground, we identified that immediate needs included safe water and capacity to cook for individuals and families in affected remote areas. The earthquake and lack of access to fuel it created exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, and created new risks for already-impoverished local communities. Children, the elderly, single mothers and other vulnerable groups were most at risk.
Ecuadorians rely on propane tanks to cook, with refills delivered regularly by state-subsidized gas trucks that roam all parts of the countryside. Price gouging and a lack of availability of propane destroyed families’ abilities to access and purchase propane and had negative economic impacts on households and local markets. With time spent searching for fuel to meet basic needs, livelihoods – including many who worked in the services and tourism sectors – were threatened. The earthquake also damaged the propane delivery infrastructure and transportation systems, and caused water sanitation systems to be in disrepair. With the fuel we provided, families were able to heat local well and other water sources while water treatment plants were being repaired.
Our volunteer team worked with the local administration and volunteers from the affected communities
Volunteers from the local youth worked tirelessly to distribute fuel to their community neighbors. Our team located the closest sources of propane and a viable transportation route to the affected areas. The local administration provided several vehicles to strengthen our efforts. By the end of our first week, with the generous support of our donors, we were able to distribute nearly 5,000 10-gallon propane tanks! The distribution focused on those individuals and families that needed fuel in the Manabí Province and neighboring communities which were heavily affected by the earthquake.
By the end of our second week in Ecuador, we had distributed enough fuel to reach another 3,625 families, bringing the total number of people reached in two weeks to 34,500. During our second deployment, made possible by the generosity of Global Giving donors, we distributed another 5,045 10-gallon propane tanks, providing fuel for 20,180 people. We are excited to share that by the end of our mission, we exceeded our goal of reaching 10,000 households with fuel relief: we reached a total of 13,670 households. This means that 54,680 people received fuel relief in our three-week deployment – enough fuel to provide for an average household’s needs for one month.
After the Ecuador response, we conducted two learning reviews, one internally, and one with our partner UN OCHA. We identified a number of areas including improving preparedness through systematization of fuel supply chain management practices, which will strengthen future response efforts. We are now integrating the learning from these two reviews into our standard operating procedures. We are also developing a beneficiary feedback tool to use during future responses, which will allow us to incorporate views of recipients of fuel relief, further strengthening our programming model.
Nepal Earthquake - 2015
On Saturday, April 25, 2015 a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, slightly northwest of the capital city Kathmandu. It was the worst earthquake to strike the region in more than 80 years – since the Bihar earthquake in 1934. Nepal was hit with a second 7.3 magnitude quake 17 days later on May 12. The second quake caused massive damage and suffering for those who had survived the initial disaster. Stretching already humble Nepali resources, hundreds of thousands of people were left without shelter, water and provisions necessary to sustain life. Over 9,000 people were killed and over 22,000 additional people were injured.
The Fuel Relief Fund (FRF) Board made an immediate decision to respond to the needs of the Nepali people. Our three-man team arrived in Kathmandu within 48 hours of the initial quake. Following our standard response protocol, we made contact with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) to assess the immediate needs and requirements. FRF responders funded the initial response with $50,000 from its own reserves to procure the required fuel for distribution. Our partner Global Giving subsequently donated $50,000 to FRF to assist our ongoing deployment. One hundred percent of the Global Giving donation and funds collected for the earthquake response went to the Nepali effort to purchase and provide fuel for people affected by the earthquake.
The FRF deployment team procured over 13,400 gallons of gasoline and diesel which was subsequently distributed as follows:
- On the first day of our operations in Nepal, FRF fueled vehicles for the United Nations OCHA and the World Food Program (WFP). Subsequently, Doctors Without Borders and other international NGOs and local relief agencies were provided free fuel.
- FRF provided fuel to power generators for area hospitals such that they could maintain their ability to serve patient needs, as well as the utilization of their ambulances, buses, and other operationally necessary equipment.
- The FRF team also supplied fuel for generators used by the Nepali people who were camped in open fields because they were afraid to stay in their dwellings for fear of the structures crumbling during the many numbered after-shocks.
- Provided fuel to the City of Kathmandu to power their water treatment plant that produces 10,000 liters of fresh water an hour.
- FRF also procured the use of a flatbed truck to transport 55 gallon barrels of gasoline and diesel to the remote villages on the mountain sides of Nepal.
- We provided fuel for many small motorcycles that local Nepalese use to get food and water to the remote mountain villages. Several of the roads and bridges were impossible to navigate in a vehicle.
Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local people affected by the earthquake expressed their sincere appreciation for FRF’s month-long deployment. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and the World Food Programme (WFP) also noted the crucial and sustaining impact our services had on their relief efforts. Based on these experiences, FRF’s relationship with those two branches of the United Nations grew extensively and the possibility emerged after the deployment, of a formalized partnership agreement between FRF and UN OCHA and additionally between FRF and WFP.
Typhoon Haiyan - Philippines, 2013
Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical storms on record, caused tremendous damage when it made landfall in the Philippines in November 2013. More than 6,000 people were killed and thousands of homes were destroyed. Over 14 million Filipinos, including nearly 6 million children, were affected. Fuel Relief Fund (FRF) deployed to Tacloban City shortly after the typhoon to capitol city of the Philippines Leyte province. FRF provided fuel (gasoline and diesel) to assist individuals affected by the typhoon, other non-profit non-government organizations, medical groups, the United Nations and affiliated agencies, local police departments, and many more for use in generators and vehicles; and to assist in the relief efforts.
The FRF team operated out of several local service stations (including Petron) at the outset of the deployment, where the team initiated distribution of fuel to government and first responders, United Nations agencies, and to non-government and relief agencies to assist people in need. The fueling then concentrated on providing direct relief to affected local communities, with one of the stations servicing individuals and families that needed fuel for vehicles and generators. In addition to the local fuel stations mentioned above, FRF set up multiple fuel distribution points around the country. Finally, FRF initiated mobile operations to expand relief coverage to surrounding communities in Northern Leyte, the fishing village of Carigara, the inland village of Alangalang, and many others.
The fuel that FRF provided was critical to keep generators, lights, equipment, and vehicles running of the many government and relief agencies operating after typhoon Haiyan. It sustained the relief work being done in Tacloban City and across the country, allowing aid organizations to fuel vehicles and mobile generators to travel into the outlying communities and provide aid, food, medical attention, and other critical services for the people in these towns and villages. Among many organizations working after typhoon Haiyan, FRF partnered with and provided fuel to the United Nations, the Red Cross, UNICEF, Doctors without Borders. The services FRF were noted by United Nations agencies to be crucial to the humanitarian relief efforts. Through strong collaboration with UN actors, FRF gained rapid access to affected communities in parts of the country made largely inaccessible due to damage of the typhoon. This strengthened our ability to reach greater numbers of people in need of relief.
Superstorm Sandy - USA, 2012
FRF responded immediately on-scene at the heart of the wreckage left by Superstorm Sandy. The FRF response was initiated on Tuesday, October 30th when the Board of Directors determined that a response was needed and appropriate. Quickly after that, a loaded fuel tanker was dispatched from Riverside, California-based Pacific Tank Lines. Ted Honcharik, owner of Pacific Tank Lines and FRF’s Chairman of the Board, travelled to the East Coast to assess the situation in advance of the tanker’s arrival. It took 3 days for the tanker to get to the East Coast (drivers of hazardous materials trucks are restricted in their on-duty time), but once there, action began quickly.
On Saturday, November 3rd, the Fuel Relief Fund truck opened near a fire station in Hoboken, NJ. It dispensed free fuel to victims carrying 5-gallon fuel containers during daylight hours. The next day Fuel Relief Fund began dispensing in Staten Island, NY. On Monday November 5th, fuel was dispensed to hurricane survivors in Long Branch, NJ.
Within three days, the Fuel Relief Fund distributed gasoline and diesel in 5 gallon increments to over 1700 individuals affected by the hurricane. Furthermore, FRF provided fuel to Red Cross, FEMA, National Guard, and local emergency response vehicles. When the FRF tanker needed refilling, the team drove it to Delaware to refuel.
The assistance of partner corporation Mansfield Oil was instrumental in this phase of the response: the team returned with fuel and were met in New Jersey with a second tanker truck and volunteers from Mansfield Oil, headquartered in Gainesville, GA. The fuel was distributed in Union Beach, NJ; Rockaway Beach, NY area; Far Rockaway, NY; and the Sea Bright and Toms River, NJ area. The Rockaway, Queens area was the visual focal point for the post-storm impacts.
Bill Lavin, an Elizabeth, New Jersey fire captain assisting Fuel Relief in Hoboken, described the efforts in an email he sent the organization:
"When you first told me you had a tanker full of "free" fuel to distribute to those in greatest need, I never fully understood the impact you would have. Hoboken, NJ on Saturday (sic) was remarkable to hear the residents express surprise and gratitude that some people would be so thoughtful and generous as to drive across country and provide the most needed resource to them and at no cost."
"I couldn't help but noticing, there was a line for water 20 people long, a line for food 30 people deep, and then looked at the line for fuel which stretched 250 to 300 strong. Validating exactly what you told me, without fuel, not much else can get accomplished."
Turkey Earthquake - 2011
In the winter of 2011, the Fuel Relief Fund team responded to a major earthquake in Van, Turkey. Nearly a million people were left without power. Upon arrival, the Fuel Relief Fund team realized that many displaced families had access to coal burning stoves. Within two days of arriving, the team purchased 82 tons of coal and distributed it to those most in need: the elderly, poor, sick, and single mothers. Amongst the rubble and the snow, families created make-shift tents and huddled together to stay warm. These efforts helped survivors keep warm for a month while in temporary shelters, tents, and homes.
"The nights were bitter cold. The situation was so desperate that one night we encountered people who had taken the wood from their window frames to burn in order to stay warm. Sometimes we were out until 3 in the morning delivering coal. It was heartbreaking to see the living conditions for so many, but uplifting to see their faces and the outpouring of gratitude when they realized we were bringing them enough coal to warm their home or tent for a month."
The FRF Response team purchased and delivered coal, sustained by donations from Lions Club Netherlands, Global Giving, and many other generous donors to fund this cause. We developed a plan to ensure that deliveries continue to those most in need – even after our response team returned from the distribution. The victims of the earthquake in Turkey had a long winter ahead of them and many would not have the means to stay warm and healthy – or even survive – without a source of fuel.
The Vice Governor of Van, Mr. Atay Uslu, told Fuel Relief Fund volunteers, donors and the USA how much the coal deliveries meant to him and the people of Van: "Many people – an estimated 50% of the population – left this city that at one time housed around a million people to find warmth, jobs and a better life. Those left behind do not have the means to move and need our help. If people have enough coal to last at least a month, they will be able to spend more time focusing on other needs, and hopefully it will encourage people to stay and try to rebuild."
Japan Earthquake & Tsunami - 2011
There are no videos or pictures that can adequately capture the power of devastation after Japan’s triple mega-disaster: the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. When the tsunami struck, the Fuel Relief Fund team immediately responded. At the scene, the team witnessed absolute destruction. Huge piles of rubble were everywhere – remnants of homes, walls, roofs, mattresses, toys, furniture, and photos were scattered as far as the eye could see. Survivors were left without power.
Temperatures were below freezing when the FRF team arrived to the scene of the tsunami, creating a desperate need fuel to help keep people warm. After discussions and analysis of the situation, FRF and Japanese government agencies agreed that free heating oil would make a substantial impact and help meet immediate needs of affected populations for warmth.
Many Japanese families do not heat their entire home. People often purchase kerosene to fuel portable heaters which they move from room to room to stay warm during winter months. For this reason, most families own a 5-gallon fuel can. Based on available resources and discussions with local leaders, FRF decided to provide 2.5 gallons of free heating oil to individuals in the communities residing in the devastated coastline.
Haiti Earthquake - 2010
A devastating earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. More than 220,000 people were killed with over 300,000 injured. The massive 7.3 magnitude earthquake left more than 1.5 million people homeless, and led to a humanitarian crisis of an immense scale that Haiti – even 5 years afterwards – still struggled with.
The conditions in Haiti were dismal and dangerous. Thousands of families were displaced and were living in tent cities without light. It was these individuals and families that Fuel Relief Fund targeted with its Haiti earthquake response.
Despite these circumstances and enduring conditions of great risk, thanks to the support of our generous donors, the Fuel Relief Fund team deployed to the region within two days. Flying into the Dominican Republic, the team crossed the border into Haiti and secured a small tanker truck to commence operations. Once on the ground, the team liaised with local government, earthquake survivors, and surviving staff of relief agencies – many of whom were suffering with losses of their own. After prioritizing the areas of greatest need, they secured fuel and organized logistics for distribution. Fueled with diesel, the FRF team provided fuel to light up tent cities and power generators for police stations, hospitals, medical clinics, and orphanages. As they distributed fuel all across Haiti, they encountered dramatic scenes of earthquake survivors living in unimaginable conditions – and the heroes trying to provide relief. Doctors trying to operate in clinics with no power, crowded camps in complete darkness. The team stayed in Haiti for two months, facing continued challenges, and navigating treacherous conditions to deliver fuel to people in need.
Hurricane Katrina - USA, 2005
Early in the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the United States Gulf Coast with incredible force. The Category 3 storm brought sustained winds of 100–140 miles per hour, stretching approximately 400 miles across. It left three states without power and thousands of people displaced without food, water, or shelter. The storm’s aftermath was catastrophic. Breaches to levees resulted in widespread flooding, and to this day many claim, that the federal government was slow to meet people’s needs affected by the storm. Hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were displaced from their homes. It is estimated that Katrina caused more than $100 billion in damage.
As after every major disaster, the need for fuel was acute: The New York Times reported:
“Drivers waiting in line for hours, and occasionally in vain, to fill up their tanks. Gasoline prices shooting up 50 percent or more overnight. The president urging everyone to curtail driving and conserve energy at home. Dark rumors of hoarding and market manipulation starting to spread. Economists warning that soaring energy costs will certainly slow economic growth -- and maybe snuff it out completely.” (See http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/business/katrinas-shock-to-the-system.html)
Immediately, what was emerging to be known as the “Fuel Relief Fund” response team deployed a tanker truck filled with gasoline and drove from California to Mississippi, and onwards to Louisiana. Conditions were challenging: highways were submerged and homes were completely destroyed. The storm left miles upon miles of ruin, damaged infrastructure and personal tragedy in its wake.
Fuel Relief Fund provided free gasoline directly to people affected by hurricane Katrine, allowing them to power their vehicles in an effort to search for food, water, and shelter. It was this experience that cemented the establishment of our non-profit organization.