On the ground after Typhoon Haiyan

18 Nov 2013   |   Blog   |   Philippines   |   Emergency Relief

Tags:  humanitarian aid, typhoon haiyan, emergency response   |   No comments

Adapted from Caritas Internationalis 15/11/2013

A week ago, the cities of Ormoc and Tacloban in the Philippines experienced 13-foot tidal surges and devastating winds after Typhoon Haiyan came ashore with winds approaching 200 mph (320kph). There are estimates that 90 percent of the structures in Ormoc were damaged or destroyed.

The international Caritas Humanitarian Team is in the Philippines coordinating relief efforts with the national Caritas and local Church. They have been able to travel to Tacloban and to other remote areas of Leyte.

Eoghan Rice of the Irish Caritas agency Trócaire is part of the team, and is in Ormoc city. "Boats are coming in with aid. There is a lot of helicopter activity. Assistance is arriving... From what I have seen, it’s a very calm situation. People are waiting very peacefully for aid to arrive.”

Meeting the Baldesco family

Family on Leyte Island, Philippines

We almost didn’t make it. We were hiding downstairs from the wind, but we didn’t expect the wave to come."
Rollie Baldesco

Packing centre in Cebu, Philippines

Eoghan Rice describes the same mild atmosphere at the docks, where 6,000 people are queuing up to leave on ferries to nearby Cebu.

In the queue for the boat, he met by chance a Philippine family with relations in his hometown of Dublin.

Rollie and Mapeth Baldesco, both 41, and their children Karyl, 17, Esme, 4 and Ellyza, 6, are from Tacloban, where over 4000 people are now said to have died.

“We almost didn’t make it,” said Rollie. “We were hiding downstairs from the wind, but we didn’t expect the wave to come. We had to grab the small children and swim upstairs.”

The need of aid in Tacloban is great. “Our house was ruined. We had no water. We were able to survive on some tinned food. We had to leave the city because we were afraid of disease as there are bodies on the street,” he said.

The Caritas emergency relief response

In addition to the Ormoc distribution, the USA Caritas agency, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), plans to give shelters to residents of Palo on the eastern coast of Leyte about 10 miles south of Tacloban. Office space has been secured in Catholic church buildings there.

Caritas relief operations include a number of areas. “We’re trying to reach the devastated areas. But it’s still very difficult. There’s still no electricity or petrol, and no communications with people on the ground,” said Msgr Broderick Pabillo, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila, the President of Caritas Philippines (NASSA).

The Church has delivered eight truckloads of food packs, water, clothing and cash to the Archdiocese of Capiz, where tens of thousands of people are in need.

The Church has also opened a base in Calbayog to help reach people on Samar Island. Fr. Cesar Aculan, who is working on relief operations, said it will provide a critical staging area for emergency relief operations.

Significant Caritas relief operation began on 13 November there in support of the work being done by parishes.“Typhoon victims here in need food, they are already hungry,” said Fr. Aculan.

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