Philippine churches work frantically on relief for storm victims

Published September 28, 2009

Churches and church-based organizations in the Philippines are helping thousands of families, who have lost relatives, homes and other properties after a tropical storm unleashed torrential rains for nine hours, flooding Metro Manila and neighbouring provinces.
As of Sept. 28, the government’s National Disaster Coordination Council reported 144 people killed, four missing and 23 injured as a result of the storm “Ketsana” two days earlier, locally known as “Ondoy.” It said the numbers of victims are expected to increase. 
“We are concentrating on massive relief operations. The system is overwhelmed, local government units are overwhelmed,” the disaster council’s head, Anthony Golez, told reporters.  “We were used to helping one city, one or two provinces but now we were following one after another. Our assets and people are spread too thinly.”The nine-hour deluge left some areas of Metro Manila, a sprawling city of 12 million people, under six metres (20 feet) of water.
Protestant and Roman Catholic churches and organizations such as Caritas Manila, a Catholic agency, immediately responded, delivering at least 1000 bags of relief goods to hundreds of families on Sept.27. 
However, Caritas Manila executive director, Rev. Anton Pascual, told CBCP News, an agency of the Philippine Catholic bishops, that his organization is short of funds because it had just helped victims of an earlier storm in Zambales province and in southern Philippines.
Volunteers of the church-based Couples for Christ Global Missions Foundation, Inc. have been packing bags of noodles, canned goods, bottled water, used garments, and footwear for needy residents. 
In addition, Catholic and Protestant churches have offered their chapels and schools as evacuation camps for thousands of displaced families, say church leaders.   
On Sept.28, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines appealed to its 10 member churches to help the estimated 337,216 people from 268 villages on Luzon island, whose homes were either submerged or washed away by floodwaters on the largest and most economically important island in the country.
“Families packed in evacuation centres are in a very difficult situation. They are exposed to hunger, malnutrition and disease. They need our help,” the NCCP said. The NCCP requested food, clothing, temporary shelter, sleeping kit, and medicines.
The Catholic bishops’ conference, the NCCP and other aid groups have launched fund drives for the relief and rehabilitation of storm victims, using Internet social networks such as Facebook and, as well as pulpits and radio and television stations to appeal for help. 
Agencies such as ACT International and foreign governments have responded to help victims of the recent storm, which, authorities said poured more rains here than the 2005 Hurricane Katrina that submerged the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas in the United States.


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