Philippines: “Unimaginable”. A nuclear disaster zone.

“Unimaginable,” is how the head of Caritas in the Philippines, is describing the devastation brought on by super typhoon Haiyan.

Father Edwin Gariguez, S.J., told Catholic News Service by phone from Cebu that the destruction “is beyond our capacity”.

He also expressed gratitude for the help of his international counterparts from the Netherlands and Germany, and the communications staff of Caritas Internationalis, who were on their way to Leyte.

With about 600,000 people displaced by the storm, the task of getting aid to Filipinos posed a challenge in terms of coordination and the logistics.

Jesuit Brother James Lee, head of the Church that Serves the Nation, the social justice arm of the Philippine Jesuit province, said before anyone could take food and other supplies to the worst-hit areas, his organisation would send someone to make sure there was a secure way that goods get to the right destination.

“Even the military cannot pass and go to different areas,” Brother Lee told Catholic News Service.

One of CAFOD’s Caritas partners Rey Barnido has managed to get a message out from Tacloban via SMS and described the scene as it were a nuclear disaster zone.

“Patients are overflowing from the regional hospital in Tacloban. There are dead people everywhere. There is no water or power. Volunteers are trying to manage the disaster. It looks as if nuclear bombs were dropped,” he txt’d.

However, CAFOD Director Chris Bain said the agency cannot waste time on despair or shock – and that CAFOD is focused on saving lives and helping those in such desperate need of help.

Pope Francis has echoed calls for help.

During Wednesday’s Angelus with pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, the pope expressed his concern and prayers for the people of the Philippines, and in particular for those who are suffering or who have died.

“I wish to express my closeness to the people of the Philippines and that region that has been hit by a terrible typhoon. Unfortunately the victims are many and the damage is enormous,” he said.

He asked the tens of thousands of people gathered in the square to join him in a moment of silent prayer “for these brothers and sisters and let’s try also to make our concrete help reach them.”

In response to the tragedy, Pope Francis made an initial donation of $150,000 for the relief efforts through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , ,