MINDANAO, Philippines, DEC. 6, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Devastation has struck the Philippines as Typhoon Bopha slammed into the town of Mindanao on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of 160,000 people and leaving hundreds dead. The 160 mph winds from the category 5 super typhoon caused flooding and damage to homes businesses and farms.
Caritas Philippines (NASSA) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS is a US-based Caritas member) have sent joint teams into the affected areas. Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Director of Caritas Philippines, is with one of the teams in Suriago del Sur where he says damage has been substantial. “Most of the coastal area has been affected,” he said.
“In the town of Nigig, only three out of 50 family homes are still standing.”
Caritas says the areas of Compostela and Davao Oriental have the highest needs, such as sleeping mats, blankets, water/hygiene supplies, and tarpaulins for emergency shelter.
“Caritas here have been able to channel assistance through the churches. Many people took refuge in churches, schools and gymnasium after receiving warning,” said Fr. Gariguez.
“We have started to provide some people with rice and basic non-food items but we will need more time and effort to be able to help many affected people.”
The teams report that there will be longer-term shelter needs especially in Compostela Province and Davao Oriental.
“Surprisingly the situation is not as bad as expected, but the material damage and agricultural impact of the typhoon will be felt many years to come,” said Fr. Gariguez. “Most of the shelter withstood the typhoon some have had roof damages but it provided the adequate shelter for many people,” he said.
Shelters built by Caritas and partner DSAC in Iligan have for example withstood the typhoon.
“The low death tolls are the result of lessons learned from previous natural disasters,” said Fr. Gariguez. “Pre-emptive evacuation and early warning system worked. The authorities informed the local mayors and informed all communities. In some cases villagers did not want to leave their houses and the police forced them into shelter. So the implementation of preparatory phases has been successful.”
People are returning to their homes and electricity is expected to return by the end of the week.