An International Caritas Humanitarian Team is in the worst hit areas of Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). The team have linked up with local parishes and Caritas staff in Tacloban and Ormoc.
Team member Eoghan Rice said that the damage is incredible. “There are parts of Tacloban where 90 percent of the buildings have been destroyed. The conditions people face are extraordinary.”
People are taking shelter in schools, shops and any other public buildings left standing in Tacloban. The Caritas team, led by Caritas Philippines Director Fr. Edwin Gariguez, visited a local seminary that has been turned into an evacuation centre where local Caritas and Church volunteers are helping over 500 survivors.
Mulvarosa Pibilra Perote is one of them, The 57 year old grandmother has five grown up children and three grandchildren, 11, 10 and 4 years old. They were at home when the storm hit.
“We were all very frightened,” she said. “We thought we were going to die. The children were crying. We were holding onto whatever we could. Many people died in our neighbourhood, including seven in just one family.”
The official death toll for Tacloban City rose to 2,000 on Thursday, but that covers only bodies that have been collected or visually confirmed by authorised officials.
“We saw recovery teams pulling bodies out of the rubble. There are dead people in body bags still on the side of the road,” said Eoghan Rice.
Many people remain missing, including Mulvarosa’s nephew, his wife, their 9 month old baby and his mother-in-law. “Nobody knew to expect the waves. My nephew’s family lived by the coast. I told him to move, but he didn’t listen. We’re still looking for them,” she said.
Caritas Philippines has been able to truck food and water to the area through its local network and provide blanket distributions of the aid. More aid is on the way with 18,000 food packs to arrive in Ormoc by the weekend and 18,720 for Tacloban.
Mulvarosa’s family has received rice, noodles and tinned goods. “My house is virtually destroyed. It has no roof,” she said. “I’m very grateful to receive food and shelter.”
Caritas Philippines has given €150,000 to 11 diocese to provide food and water. Over 20,000 bags of relief goods have been sent by Caritas Manila to 13 affected dioceses by truck and boat.
International relief is on its way too. Caritas Netherlands (Cordaid) has 24 tonnes of tarpaulins and 3300 medical kits en route by air to Philippines. Caritas member Catholic Relief Services has purchased 32,000 tarpaulins, of which 5000 have arrived in Cebu. With the arrival in country of tarps and water and sanitation kits, initial distributions will take place within the week.