Priest Says Super Typhoon Yolanda Claimed More Than 15,000 Lives

Number Greatly Contrasts With Earlier Relief Agency Estimates

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The onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013 claimed far more lives than originally estimated.

At a Mass yesterday, Fr. Mario Sobrejuanite, a priest from Tacloban in the Philippines, told churchgoers that more than 15,000 people died, reported the Philippine Star today.

Fr. Sobrejuanite was informed of the high fatality rate from Yolanda by another priest he met during the wedding of a celebrity couple, who also told him the official death toll was far too little compared with the actual deaths caused by the super typhoon.

The official count of government disaster relief agencies placed the death toll at 6,340 with over a thousand missing.

Refusing to reveal the identity of his fellow priest, Fr. Sobrejuanite said the priest expressed suspicion that the government would only roll out development projects in Yolanda-devastated areas in time for the 2016 elections.

“It is wrong to help when waiting for something in return,” he pointed out.

In one of his visits to Tacloban City, the priest recalled he had encountered one of the children chosen to personally meet and talk to Pope Francis, who is set to visit the country, including Tacloban, next week.

The priest recalled asking the child what would be his message to Pope Francis and that the child responded saying he would ask the Pope to pray for the government to be able to help the victims of Yolanda.

On Nov. 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda struck 171 localities in the Visayas region.

As a result, the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) was created to coordinate all activities in the affected areas.

Although OPARR has completed its tasks, Yolanda victims are said to hardly feel the assistance.


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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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