Category Archives: Emergencies in the Philippines

Philippines storm survivors in great need

Church evacuation centre in Tacloban City. Photo care of church volunteer.

Church evacuation centre in Tacloban City. Photo care of church volunteer.

A picture of massive devastation is emerging from the Philippines after a super typhoon struck Friday. Communication remains to be a challenge but local staff have been able to speak with some of the worst hit regions.

More than 3 million people are located within 30 miles of the direct path of Typhoon Haiyan – known locally as Yolanda. There is a high level of destruction especially in these areas. The hardest-hit communities have no water, no food and no electricity.

At least 9.5 million people have been affected in the Philippines.

Tacloban City had a tidal surge of nearly 10 feet. Families from informal settler communities are the worst hit by the storm surge and need immediate assistance according to the local church.

Residents walk on a road littered with debris after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10. Photo by Reuters/Erik De Castro, courtesy Trust.org

Residents walk on a road littered with debris after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10. Photo by Reuters/Erik De Castro, courtesy Trust.org

The airport there is now cleared and supplies are arriving. But many areas have yet to been reached. United Nations teams described the scene from the air as being on a scale of the 2004 India Ocean tsunami.

A number of islands have been hit. Leyte and Samar are said to have received severe damage. Reports says a path has been leveled across Leyte, including Ormoc City.

A Caritas Philippines and Catholic Relief Service team (CRS is a Caritas member) reached Leyte by boat today to assess the most urgent needs. From data on wind speeds and storm surge, as well as the levels of poverty, Caritas fears the scale of destruction in yet unreached areas will be catastrophic.

Water, hygiene and sanitation, food, medicine, shelter, debris clearance, logistics and communications are immediate priorities according to the government.

A man stands atop debris as residents salvage belongings from the ruins of their houses after Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines. REUTERS/Erik De Castro courtesy Trust.org

A man stands atop debris as residents salvage belongings from the ruins of their houses after Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines. REUTERS/Erik De Castro courtesy Trust.org

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines-NASSA, said, “It’s a great catastrophe, but our emergency planning is underway. We are in great need.”

Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, speaking from Tegucigalpa, said, “Our prayers are with the people of Philippines. They are a people who have suffered many natural disasters in the past, always with great resilience and faith. They can be assured of the support of Caritas around the world.”

Pope Francis also prayed for the victims of the typhoon after the Sunday Angelus in St Peter’s Square. He firstly called for silent prayer, and then led the faithful in a recitation of the Hail Mary. He urged those present to help their brothers and sisters in the Philippines concretely, as well as through prayer.

Please support our work in response to Typhoon Haiyan.

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Two weeks after Philippines quake, residents overcoming tragedy

A family of four live in this very small makeshift tent erected at Loon. They are prohibited from returning to their house in barangay Napo where liquefaction and a sink hole have been reported. They are unable to expand their tents because there are no more tarps available in Loon. Loon Park, Loon, Bohol. Garrett Nolasco/CRS Philippines

A family of four live in this very small makeshift tent erected at Loon. They are prohibited from returning to their house in barangay Napo where liquefaction and a sink hole have been reported. They are unable to expand their tents because there are no more tarps available in Loon. Loon Park, Loon, Bohol. Garrett Nolasco/CRS Philippines

Caritas relief efforts are well underway for the survivors of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the Philippine islands of Bohol and Cebu two weeks ago, on 15 October. Caritas Philippines (known locally as NASSA) is getting tarpaulins for temporary shelters to some of the hardest hit areas as well as giving out food.

“It’s a catastrophic situation,” said Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines. “People are not ready to go back to their homes and are still in evacuation centres or with friends and family.”

People in the evacuation centres have limited access to drinking water and sanitation facilities.

Caritas relief efforts are focusing on Maribojoc and three other areas in Bohol, where the national Caritas is working with Caritas members from the UK, North America, Singapore and Japan to get the aid through to around 20,000 people.

“We are used to emergencies in the Philippines,” said Fr. Gariguez. “But this earthquake was totally unexpected. The good thing has been that the people are really resilient. They have been able to help one another cope with this disaster.”

Although the death toll was low “thanks to a miracle it was a holiday”, Fr. Gariguez said the level of destruction is huge. Over three million people have been affect, bridges, roads and houses destroyed.

“One of the hardest things for the people is to see so many old churches destroyed,” he said. “We are a very religious people and to see old churches flattened has added to the tragedy for many people.”

“My heart dropped when I saw the rubble of the parish church in Clarin. The churches in Bohol date back to the earliest days of Catholicism in the Philippines in the 1600s,” said Catholic Relief Services Philippines emergency program manager Arnaldo “Arar” Arcadio. CRS is a Caritas member with headquarters in the USA.

“They represent the depth and richness of my own Catholic faith. And while the structural damage is an enormous blow, the loss of more than 150 lives strikes the “living Church” in Bohol, a true heartbreak,” he said.

But Fr. Gariguez said he has been moved by the response to the disaster in the parish. “Priests and
parishioners may have lost their churches, but their energy and organisation in helping those in need has been truly impressive,” he said.

For CRS’s Arar, he said “As I go to mass on Sunday, I will take heart that the “living Church” doesn’t reside in a structure. Today I saw the Church in the faces of neighbours helping each other, and in the priests and laypeople who are working tirelessly in very difficult conditions.”

Caritas Philippines say they still need to mobilise funds to help those in need, with international appeals receiving less than half of what’s needed.

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Typhoon Bopha leaves trail of destruction in Philippines

Concepcion Ondocan is coping with loss after so many of her friends and neighbors were killed in a mudslide that swept away 300 homes. Photo by Jen Hardy/CRS

Concepcion Ondocan is coping with loss after so many of her friends and neighbours were killed in a mudslide that swept away 300 homes. Photo by Jen Hardy/CRS

By Jen Hardy, CRS Communications Officer

Lush trees dominate the landscape in the tropical Philippines. But in this mountainous section of Mindanao, brown, barren landscape now stretches into the distance.

The trees that stayed standing were stripped bare on 3 December, as Typhoon Bopha devastated areas of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. In many areas, every tree, stretching to the mountains in the distance, lies snapped on the ground.

Massive banana plantations have been flattened, leaving only traces of homes and other structures. Bananas sit rotting in the mud, and plantation labourers worry that with no bananas to harvest they’ve lost their incomes just as they’re grappling with so much other loss.

Fele Ondocan is thankful that her home in Andap barangay is only damaged, not totally destroyed.

“The roof and part of the frame blew away, but we found it nearby. We’re relieved, because we can’t afford to buy new materials,” she said. “We can fix the home. Our neighbours lost everything.” Continue reading

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Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines: ‘It looks like a tsunami hit’

CRS (Caritas member in the USA) staffer Howard Bacayana stands in about a foot of water as he does a damage assessment in the city of Cagayan de Oro after Typhoon Bopha (known locally as Pablo) struck the Philippines on December 4, 2012. Credits: Salacion Pacatang/Catholic Relief Services

CRS (Caritas member in the USA) staffer Howard Bacayana stands in about a foot of water as he does a damage assessment in the city of Cagayan de Oro after Typhoon Bopha (known locally as Pablo) struck the Philippines on December 4, 2012. Credits: Salacion Pacatang/Catholic Relief Services

“It looks like a tsunami hit. It’s just complete and total destruction. Whole hillsides were washed away in flash floods,” said Joe Curry, CRS country representative in the Philippines.

“I’ve talked to colleagues who’ve worked in disaster response for ten years, and they say the devastation in the Compostela Valley is among the worst they’ve ever seen in the Philippines,” said Curry.

The official death toll now stands at more than 647, with at least 550 people missing. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes since the typhoon made landfall  last Tuesday.

“As the roads are now being accessible and the electricity is back in many areas , the communication and access is bringing a clearer picture of the extend of the destruction,” says Cynthia Perez from Caritas Philippines (locally known as NASSA). Continue reading

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Flooding in the Philippines: Caritas responds

Marisol Ugay and one of her children at an evacuation center for flood victims. Photo by Elizabeth Tromans/CRS

Caritas is working quickly to help people suffering because of massive flooding in the Philippines. Elizabeth Tromans of Catholic Relief Services (a Caritas member based in the USA) is helping respond to the floods in metro Manila, and describes one woman’s story on the CRS blog:

Through the metal bars of a window in an elementary school now used as an evacuation center, Marisol Ugay, 29, holds a toddler and an infant in her lap and gives a reluctant smile as she explains, “I don’t normally look this old; it’s just the stress.”

For nearly two weeks, the monsoon rains haven’t stopped in metro Manila and surrounding areas. The torrential rains, which began on August 7, have affected 1.2 million people and forced 242,000 people out of their homes and into evacuation centers. The Philippine government reports a total of 614 evacuation centers throughout central Luzon. At its most severe, rain fell at a rate of 2 inches per hour, dumping half the normal August monsoon rain in just 24 hours.

On August 7th, Marisol was shocked at how heavily the rain was falling. As she watched out the window of her home, located along the river in her village of San Pedro in Bulucan, north of Manila, she worried about her two young children.

“I couldn’t afford to wait and see what would happen. I saw the rain pouring down and the river rising. I quickly grabbed my two babies, one in each arm, bundled what belongings I could carry on my head and left my home.”

Read more

 

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Recycling timber to aid victims of Typhoon Washi

Logs washed up near the port in Iligan City . Credit: Robert Cruickshank/CAFOD


In the Philippines, where thousands of people lost their homes to powerful Typhoon Washi, a Caritas partner is using timber from logs that were washed down the river to build temporary shelters. In rural areas, they are also distributing housing repair kits – tools, sheeting and plywood – and helping to repair water systems.

Read more about the work of CAFOD (a Caritas member based in the UK) and ECOWEB, its partner on the ground.

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Philippines: dispatch from the flood zone

A jeepney that used to serve in the interior areas. Scenes from the southern Philippines following Tropical Storm Washi. Photo credit: CAFOD

Carino Antequisa of CAFOD (Caritas UK) is on the ground in the southern Philippines responding to the emergency. He writes:

I have just come back from our assessment in the interior areas of Iligan. I’m a bit tired as we had to hike some stretches of impassable roads to reach some devastated communities along the Mandulog River. Our team was the first to reach some of the interior villages that were totally swept by the rampaging water.

The situation in the interior villages is very much the same as in the urban areas. However, what they considered as immediate needs are nails, roofing materials, a chainsaw for cutting the fallen coconut trees for their new homes, and food while they reconstruct their houses. Most of them still have farms that were partially destroyed but still could provide food. There is a visible need for improving their water supply.

They need shelter, along with farm tools, draft animals and other things for their crops. A big challenge is where to locate their new houses.

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