Caritas Australia, the Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency, is responding through our partners on the ground in the Philippines to the devastating aftermath of the super Typhoon Haiyan.
The monster storm battered the country with winds of more than 330 kilometres per hour and had a diameter of approximately 800 km wide. The UN estimates that 4.3 million people have already been affected, and in Vietnam, authorities warned many hundreds of thousands of people could also be affected.
In the Philippines authorities have reported the death toll could reach into the tens of thousands following the Typhoon the strongest in the world this year and possibly the most powerful ever to hit land.
So far Caritas Internationalis, one of the largest humanitarian networks in the world has committed more than $1 million to relief efforts through its member organisaitons. Caritas Australia has committed $100,000 so far.
Caritas Australia’s Humanitarian Emergencies Co-ordinator, Richard Forsythe, said the impact has been “catastrophic” with millions forced to flee to safer grounds. Reports of damage from Caritas’s partners in the region are slowly beginning to surface. It will take several days for the true impact of the super Typhoon (locally known as Yolanda) to come to light and the death toll looks set to rise, along with the reports of damage.
“Caritas Australia, our partners in the Philippines and other aid agencies are mobilising resources to help people and the government in the most affected areas,” Mr Forsythe said.
“We are assessing the needs and preparing to do everything we can. The devastation has certainly been on a massive scale. We are working closely with our partners on the ground in co-ordinating emergency services to help those affected.
“Caritas Australia is particularly concerned about the impact on Bohol where around 281,000 people are still living in makeshift shelters and tents and another 89,000 people are living in evacuation centres and settlements in the area following a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.”
The devastation is expected to be worse than last year’s Typhoon Bopha which caused extensive damage across the country in December 2012, killing more than 1000 people.
Food and water are scarce and there are no telecommunications in many areas. The UN has reported scenes of total devastation in the city of Tacloban. The roads there are impassable and the only means of travel is by helicopter.
Other parts of the country such as Leyte and North Samar Island have also been devastated.
“We are ready to respond through our networks in any way we can to this disaster,” Mr Forsythe said.
Caritas Australia runs a long-term community development program in the Masbate Diocese, in the Philippines, which was in the typhoon’s path. The Caritas network began preparations on Thursday to mitigate the potential disastrous impacts on communities in which we work.
Our partners in Masbate and across the Philippines have worked with communities to make preparations for the extreme weather, especially those who live near the seashore.
Caritas teams are in the field to assess needs.
“We ask that you join us in keeping these vulnerable communities in your thoughts and prayers as they endure this emergency. We will continue to provide updates as the situation progresses,” Mr Forsythe said.
“Up to 20,000 tarpaulins are being forwarded for emergency use, along with 1 million water purification tablets to help 16,000 families.
“Another 18,000 emergency shelter supply kits, 5,000 water, sanitation and hygiene kits, and 5,000 non-food item kits are also being delivered.”
“Our response teams are travelling to many of the areas hardest hit to see what people need and how we can help them. They are travelling to Ormoc, Tacloban, Palo and southern Samar. A second team will travel to Panay Island on Tuesday for Capiz and Iloilo provinces.
“We are devastated by this disaster and Caritas is currently moving tarpaulins to Cebu City so that we can provide families with inevitable shelter needs.”
In Vietnam, Caritas Australia’s partners have been bracing for the worst, particularly in Da Nang and Hue.
“I was in Da Nang and Quang Nam Province yesterday and met local authorities. Central and local steering committees have met and made all preparedness plan,” said Snigdha Chakraborty, Country Manager, Catholic Relief Services (Caritas US), Vietnam.
“We also have seen people putting heavy sand sacks on roof tops to protect them from high winds.”
Donations to Caritas’ Emergency Response Fund help provide immediate humanitarian relief whenever and wherever disaster strikes around the world.
Find out more at http://www.caritas.org.au/.