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“I don't know if my family is still alive or if they're all dead”
A father carries the lifeless body of his daughter Nov. 10 on the way to the morgue after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban, Philippines. (CNS photo/Nino Jesus Orbeta, Philippine Daily Inquirer via Reuters)

During the first day of the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore, Catholic Relief Services CEO Dr. Carolyn Woo presented an overview of the organization’s efforts in the Philippines, struck late last week by Typhoon Haiyan. Woo told the bishops that the widely-reported estimated death toll of 10,000 was likely too low, and that accurate numbers have been hard to come by in the most hard-hit regions of the central Philippines.

CRS’ website has more information on aid activities:

Catholic Relief Services teams arrived at the port in Ormoc (Leyte Island) on Sunday and were in Palo today.  Travel has been extremely slow due to roads clogged with debris. Teams report a large percentage of homes are unlivable.  Trees and posts are uprooted and shops and other buildings destroyed. Communication with the Manila office only on a very limited basis through satellite phone with poor signal, as they have not reached any area with cell service yet.

Late yesterday the first information arrived from Samar Island and it is similarly as devastated as Tacloban City, a focus of media reporting.  Initial reports indicate that hundreds are confirmed dead so far and thousands are missing, according to a statement by a local official on 10 November.

Samar Island has approximately 733,000 people. It was the first location that the storm made landfall. Its residents have not been able to get information out or contact loved ones.  Giporlos and Guiuan are reported to be “totally ruined” and 2,000 are listed as missing in Basey alone, according to a member of Samar’s Disaster Management Council.  It is assumed that similar situations will be found in other areas of Southern Samar which took Haiyan’s first direct hit.  UNDAC assessments teams are conducting aerial surveys of Samar today so some additional information will become available.

In addition to 18,000 tarps, CRS support includes water and hygiene supplies and non-food-item kits for 5,000 families. Cash-for-work community clean up and debris removal area also planned.

An aerial view shows a coastal town Nov. 11 devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan in Samar province, Philippines. (CNS photo/Erik De Castro, Reuters)

 

Meanwhile, in the capital city of Manila, residents of Tacloban are struggling to return to the devastated city to locate family members. Catholic News Service reports:

Everyone in this group was hoping for a chance to get on one of the C-130 military planes on the airfield that would be heading to Tacloban, in Leyte province, where Haiyan whipped up a 15-foot-high storm surge that scattered bodies in its wake.

Maria Grace Estorico sat on a curb pressing a handkerchief to her eyes. 

"I don't know if my family is still alive or if they're all dead," she told Catholic News Service in between sobs. "I'll be the only one left."

Estorico lives in Tacloban, with her family, rice farmers. She came to the capital in September so she could apply for better paying work abroad as a domestic helper. She left behind her husband, a teenage daughter, an adult daughter and son-in-law, her grandchildren and her parents.

The last time Estorico spoke with someone from her family was Nov. 5, and she has not been able to reach anyone in her neighborhood to try to get some news.

Haiyan's winds obliterated cell towers and knocked out power, leaving entire provinces in darkness. Cellphone reception has been spotty at best. …

Others, such as Tito Lucinareo, came to the base from a nearby province even before dawn. Since the typhoon struck Nov. 8 he said he had not slept very well. Lucinareo's 13-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son live with his aunt and other family members in a town 15 miles outside Tacloban.

One of Lucinareo's nephews was able to get on a C-130 Nov. 10, and he saw that the children survived the storm. 

Lucinareo told CNS he was relieved to know they were alive but finding out they were hungry pained him "because even if there's money to send, it all comes to nothing. There's nothing to buy there," said Lucinareo. "Money is meaningless now. It hurts. It hurts."

The president of the Philippines Bishops Conference, Archbishop Jose Palma, said in a statement that “no calamity or natural disaster can quench the fire of our hope.” He also announced that a novena will be held across the country starting today for the victims, their families, and the region’s recovery.

Following yesterday’s Angelus address and then again today on Twitter, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to “be generous with prayers and concrete help” for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Via the Catholic News Service blog comes this information on the needs of typhoon victims and ways you can help:

The Catholic Relief Services country representative in the Philippines, Joe Curry, said this typhoon — known in the Philippines as Yolanda — combined with Typhoon Bopha last December and the earthquake in October created a “very trying time … for all the people in the middle of it and being affected by it.”

Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based international network of Catholic aid agencies, was accepting donations on its website. Catholic Relief Services, a Caritas network member in the United States, had a “Donate Now” button on its website pagethat explained its plans. And Filipinos who want to donate can go directly to Caritas Philippines.

Other agencies providing help include the Catholic Medical Mission Board and Cross Catholic.

 

 
About the Author
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.
 
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