Caritas is preparing to help communities hit by a massive typhoon in the Philippines.

Super Typhoon Megi is battering communities in the north of the country with heavy rains and powerful winds of 225 km/h. The category 5 storm is the strongest to hit the Philippines in four years.

Arnaldo Arcadia is an Emergency Programme Manager for CRS (Catholic Relief Services is a US member of Caritas). Speaking from Luzon, near the city of Baguio, he said: “We were about 12 km outside the city when the storm began. We are taking refuge in the parish now because the winds and rain are strong. The wind is battering the windows and the visibility is poor—I can only see about 20 m. The trees are shaking and swaying.”

Caritas Philippines says that some areas are cut off and that the storm will affect a wide swath of the country.

“At the moment we don’t have contact as the both the landlines and the mobile networks are down,” said Cynthia Perez, Programme Officer for Caritas Philippines, “Parishes on the ground have received disaster preparedness training and are monitoring the situation.”

Caritas works with communities to prepare them for natural disasters through training and awareness raising about the risks and what to do in the event of a disaster. In Manila, Catholic Relief Services held a 2-day emergency preparedness workshop last week with a number of local Caritas’s, including three who will be affected in northern Luzon.

The Philippines is very vulnerable to tropical storms. A typhoon which hit the island of Luzon in July this year killed dozens of people. Typhoon Ketsana in September 2009 caused 300 deaths and led to over 800,000 people fleeing their homes.

Typhoons can put communities at risk of floods, landslides and sea surges.

Fears have been raised that Typhoon Megi will hit rice-producing areas in the Philippines. This will lead to future price rises if poor crops are harvested.

For more information, please contact Michelle Hough on +39 06 69879721/+39 334 2344136 or hough@caritas.va