A picture of massive devastation is emerging from the Philippines after a super typhoon struck Friday. Communication remains to be a challenge but local staff have been able to speak with some of the worst hit regions.
More than 3 million people are located within 30 miles of the direct path of Typhoon Haiyan – known locally as Yolanda. There is a high level of destruction especially in these areas. The hardest-hit communities have no water, no food and no electricity.
At least 9.5 million people have been affected in the Philippines.
Tacloban City had a tidal surge of nearly 10 feet. Families from informal settler communities are the worst hit by the storm surge and need immediate assistance according to the local church.
The airport there is now cleared and supplies are arriving. But many areas have yet to been reached. United Nations teams described the scene from the air as being on a scale of the 2004 India Ocean tsunami.
A number of islands have been hit. Leyte and Samar are said to have received severe damage. Reports says a path has been leveled across Leyte, including Ormoc City.
A Caritas Philippines and Catholic Relief Service team (CRS is a Caritas member) reached Leyte by boat today to assess the most urgent needs. From data on wind speeds and storm surge, as well as the levels of poverty, Caritas fears the scale of destruction in yet unreached areas will be catastrophic.
Water, hygiene and sanitation, food, medicine, shelter, debris clearance, logistics and communications are immediate priorities according to the government.
Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines-NASSA, said, “It’s a great catastrophe, but our emergency planning is underway. We are in great need.”
Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, speaking from Tegucigalpa, said, “Our prayers are with the people of Philippines. They are a people who have suffered many natural disasters in the past, always with great resilience and faith. They can be assured of the support of Caritas around the world.”
Pope Francis also prayed for the victims of the typhoon after the Sunday Angelus in St Peter’s Square. He firstly called for silent prayer, and then led the faithful in a recitation of the Hail Mary. He urged those present to help their brothers and sisters in the Philippines concretely, as well as through prayer.