Church agencies help with aftermath of Philippines super-typhoon

By staff writers
12 Dec 2006

Church and development agencies are battling against more typhoons and heavy rains in their efforts to bring relief to poor communities across the central Philippines regions hit by last week’s super typhoon.

Unseasonal typhoons forced thousands over the weekend back into overcrowded evacuation centres in Albay province, Bicol, as the second major storm in ten days wrought more havoc across the disaster-stricken country.

"In Albay, half the affected population had already moved into evacuation centres after homes were destroyed by the landslide 10 days ago," said Jessica Bersilla, the UK-based international development agency Christian Aid’s emergency officer in the Philippines.

"But the other half had chosen to set up makeshift tents and shelters because they weren’t comfortable with the conditions in the evacuation centres," she added.

Said Ms Bersilla: "With the typhoon this weekend, these people were forced to evacuate, however. The centres were overflowing, so churches and schools were used. Christian Aid partners even took people into their own homes to keep them safe."

Overcrowding of evacuation centres is a harsh reality for communities living through natural disasters. In Albay, as many as 22 families have to share a 8m x 10m room, while 42 centres – mainly in schools and public buildings – have been set up to accommodate 5,000 families.

For example, Lola Inez is a grandmother who was living at the foot of the Mount Mayon volcano. Her home was buried by the landslide that engulfed the villages below the volcano last week.

Inez did not want to move to an evacuation centre, worried that she and her family would become ill in the overcrowded conditions. So, she set up a makeshift shack by the river where her home once stood.

When, a week later, the second typhoon again threatened the region, the distressed woman and thousands of others in makeshift tents were moved to safer shelters.

Non-government organisations like COPE and Coastal Core are now arranging delivery of 1,000 emergency shelters for families like this. A further 5,200 of the most vulnerable people are receiving bedding, mosquito nets, hygiene kits, torches and cooking utensils, and 3,300 food packs will also be distributed.

This year, with 19 typhoons so far striking the Philippines, the storm season has reportedly been unusually long. Typhoons are usually expected between July and October 2006, explains Christian Aid.

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