Many Filipinos face Christmas homeless following Typhoon Rai
By Lydia O'Kane
Typhoon Rai which hit the Philippines last Thursday has caused massive destruction as far as the eye can see.
The death toll has now risen to nearly 400 and the race continues to find survivors.
The typhoon slammed into the Philippines bringing torrential rain, strong winds, flash floods, landslides and extensive damage to homes and livelihoods across five regions directly impacting 1.8 million Filipinos.
The storm also struck at a time when people were already feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of those impacted by this disaster are also currently living below the poverty line.
Fr Tony Labiao, is Caritas Philippines’ Executive Secretary and since Monday has been visiting the areas most affected by the Typhoon.
He told Vatican Radio he had just returned from the devastated region of Bohol where countless numbers of people have been impacted.
“We went to the "Ground Zero" which is the municipality of Talibon… what I saw is like a desert.”
Assessing the damage in the area, the executive secretary said 80 percent of homes had been destroyed, communication lines are down and there is no electricity.
“People are lining up for food and water and it’s the same also in Cebu. Churches are destroyed; eighty to ninety percent of houses are down.”
The latest figures show that 662,000 people were displaced by the storm, and at least 159,000 homes have been damaged.
While some areas are now reachable, remote places are proving more difficult to access, said Fr Labiao, who hopes that power and telecommunications can be restored as soon as possible in order to reach vulnerable communities.
Caritas Philippines is currently assessing needs on the ground in the affected areas, and Fr Labiao noted that from the reports they are getting from the churches and dioceses, the most basic needs include food, water, hygiene kits, temporary shelter kits and medicines.
“With the leadership of Caritas Philippines, we mobilized all our dioceses, dioceses not affected by this Typhoon,” he said. Collections are being taken up at Masses and a solidarity appeal has been launched to help those most in need.
Caritas Australia has also pledged to support the Philippines through the Asia Emergency Appeal, to support the emergency response and rebuilding efforts after Typhoon Rai.
Fr Labiao highlighted that this disaster happened at a time when the country had relaxed its health protocols, put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “People started to go out and prepare for Christmas and then comes this Typhoon Rai. That's why it dampened a lot of our spirit among our people here in the devastated areas.”
There will be two days of National Prayer on December 25 and 26 for all those impacted by the disaster in the Philippines.