|Reuters/Erik De Castro - Courtesy of alertnet|
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CAFOD, the overseas aid agency of the Church in England and Wales alerted people to the so-called “super-typhoon” which has been described as the most powerful storm ever to make landfall, striking the central Philippines on Friday 8 November with sustained winds of 235 kph.
With power lines and phone lines down, the full impact of the typhoon is not yet known, but it is clear that it is had a catastrophic impact on the lives of millions of people. An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in Tacloban city alone. Hundreds have been killed elsewhere, and there has been widespread destruction of homes, schools and roads.
Crucial role of the church
In a country where 80 per cent of people are Catholic, CAFOD is working with Caritas Philippines and its American sister charity, Catholic Relief Services, to provide the most urgently needed aid: food, emergency shelter and essential household goods –– like pots, pans, blankets and cooking equipment – for people who have lost everything. With water supplies disrupted in many areas, the agency is also planning to provide clean water and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.
In the longer term, CAFOD will help people to rebuild their homes and to make a living again. Because of the scale of the flooding and because roads have been blocked, some parts of the country remain difficult to reach – but the agency’s Church partners are rapidly reaching out to the worst hit and most remote areas affected.
No time to waste
CAFOD Director Chris Bain said: “However distressing the images of devastation and stories of suffering caused by Typhoon Haiyan, we cannot waste time on despair or shock – not when there are still lives to be saved, and communities in such desperate need of help.
“We are launching our emergency appeal in response to the hundreds of schools, parishes and individuals up and down the country who have contacted us to ask: ‘What can we do?’, showing the generosity and compassion that is always the hallmark of the Catholic community in times of crisis.
“The best way we can all help is by supporting the charities and church groups who are already operating in the worst hit areas, responding to their immediate needs for food, water and shelter, beginning the hard work of rebuilding the communities that have lost everything, and keeping them constantly in our prayers. Together, we can bring new hope to those who today face utter desolation.”
Local aid workers have described devastating scenes in the aftermath of the typhoon, particularly on the island of Leyte.
Rey Barnido, an aid worker from CAFOD’s partner Caritas Philippines, said: "Patients are overflowing from the regional hospital in Tacloban. There are dead people everywhere. There is no water or power. Volunteers are trying to manage the disaster. It looks as if nuclear bombs were dropped."
Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of CAFOD’s partner Caritas Philippines, said: “It’s the first time the Philippines has experienced a disaster of this magnitude. Despite the precautions, this was beyond all expectations. We really need all the help we can get.”
CAFOD has immediately deployed an emergency support team who will be working alongside Caritas Philippines and Catholic Relief Services.
The typhoon hit some of the same areas that were affected by an earthquake in October, adding to damage to houses and hampering aid efforts. Thousands of people on Bohol island, where CAFOD was responding to the earthquake, are now living in tents, makeshift shelters and evacuation centres. CAFOD is continuing to supply food and shelter to those who most need it.
Over the next few days, the typhoon is likely to cause more devastation in the Mekong River basin as it hits the coast of Vietnam. It may also add to the flooding in Cambodia, where more than 140,000 are already homeless.