A girl searches for salvageable items after flash floods brought by Typhoon Washi (Sendong) in Macasandig town, Cagayan De Oro city, southern Philippines December 17, 2011. Credits: REUTERS/Stringer courtesy of alertnet.org

A girl searches for salvageable items after flash floods brought by Typhoon Washi (Sendong) in Macasandig town, Cagayan De Oro city, southern Philippines December 17, 2011.
Credits: REUTERS/Stringer courtesy of alertnet.org

Caritas teams continue to fan out over the southern Philippine island of Mindanao to help families suffering because of massive flash flooding. Over 600 people died in the flood, and parts of Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City were washed away. Tens of thousands of people are living in evacuation centres like university gyms.

“Because Mindanao is not used to having storms like this, many people were caught unprepared,” says Bishop Broderick Pabillo, auxiliary bishop of Manila. “This may be a result of climate change–typhoons come at times and places where they usually do not. This storm cost a lot of human lives and caused a lot of damage.”

Caritas Philippines, known within the country as NASSA, has sent a team to the Diocese of Iligan. Catholic Relief Services, a Caritas member from the USA, has a team on the ground in Cagayan de Oro.

News sources report that the number of dead is overwhelming local mortuaries in Cagayan de Oro City and bodies are being turned away. There is no running water in Cagayan de Oro City, leading to long lines and increasing prices. Electricity was restored to 80% of Cagayan de Oro City as of December 19, but 23 neighborhoods are still flooded.

In Iligan, some families are taking refuge at the gym of the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology campus. According to NASSA, the local government is running out of relief supplies for the evacuees.

The Diocese of Dumaguete in Negros Oriental, a region in a different part of the Philippines, appealed to NASSA for help. The area was declared to be under a state of calamity. NASSA is sending a team there to assess damages and to coordinate the emergency response.

In Cagayan de Oro, CRS is working with the archdiocese and with the Jesuit-run Xavier University, which is serving as a temporary relief centre and is delivering relief goods.

“As so often happens, the poor and needy are hardest hit,” says Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez, Executive Secretary of NASSA. “We continue to pray for the victims of this tragic calamity.”

For more information, please contact Laura Sheahen on 0039 334 2344136 or 0039 06 698 797 55 or email sheahen@caritas.va.