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Agencies launch 'massive response' after Typhoon Haiyan devastates Philippines

08 November 2013


Aftermath: a devastated downtown area in Tacloban city, on Leyte Island, on Sunday 

Aftermath: a devastated downtown area in Tacloban city, on Leyte Island, on Sunday 

AID agencies are mounting a "massive response" as the scale of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines becomes clear.

Officials are now warning that up to 10,000 people may have died when the typhoon tore through the central Philippines on November.

The charity World Vision said in a statement that it was aiming to provide life-saving essentials to 1.2 million people in the aftermath of the storm, which some are calling the most powerful ever to ever hit land.

Many of their Philippines staff, the charity said, are also victims of the typhoon: 37 of them had suffered damage to their homes. One World Vision worker, Erna Tupaz, said: "The typhoon totally destroyed our house. We're living with neighbours now. I can't do anything but to cry." A World Vision emergency specialist, Aaron Aspi, said: "It was like waking up from a nightmare."

Grace Baloro, a World Vision worker with family on the island of Leyte, which was badly hit by the storm, said: "I'm worrying about my two children. I don't have any contact with them yet. I left them with their nanny." 

The Government announced on Sunday that it would donate £6 million to provide "crucial humanitarian aid", but the head of the Philippines Red Cross, Richard Gordon, told the BBC that the situation was "absolute bedlam". "There's an awful lot of casualties; a lot of people dead all over the place; a lot of destruction," he said. "It's absolute bedlam right now, but hopefully it will turn out better as more and more supplies get into the area."

Speaking on Friday, Alwynn Javier, a Christian Aid senior programme officer in the capital, Manila, said that the damage was likely to be colossal. "This is on a scale never been seen before. It has covered a vast area, including islands where the infrastructure was already limited. Air and seaports are closed, and power lines are down, cutting off entire provinces and leaving many communities stranded."

A regional emergency manager for Christian Aid, Coree Steadman, said that the organisation had not been able to get in touch with its local partners because of the devastation caused by the storm.

"It is not just the strength of the typhoon," she said, "but the scale of it - it has affected 15 provinces, two of which were also hit by the earthquake. Our priority now is responding to immediate needs: food, household items, blankets, and shelter materials. We will also be looking at the extent of the damage to livelihoods as part of our assessment. In the next few weeks, we will be able to respond for longer term rehabitation."

The storm struck the central Philippine islands of Leyte and Samar, and northern parts of Cebu. A spokesman for World Vision said that the charity had been unable to contact staff in Tacloban City, in Leyte. The charity said that it would be sending relief teams to the Visayas region, which was worst hit by the typhoon, as well as continuing its support of up to 7000 families affected by last month's earthquake. The BBC is reporting that Tacloban has been flattened by the storm, and that bodies are piling up in the streets as aid struggles to reach the town.

The chief executive of Tearfund, Matthew Frost, asked the charity's supporters to pray for the relief effort in the Philippines. "As well as the urgent and practical things, like helping people have a roof over their heads, we know that there will be a lot of grief as people come to terms with bereavement," he said. "We must pray for the thousands of people who are grieving and ask God how he wants each of us to respond to their needs.

"Please also pray for the churches who are sending teams out, many of whom will travel long distances by motorbike, that their teams would stay safe and well on their travels, and that they would be able to bring hope to the people they meet."

On Monday, the Archbishop of Canterbury sent a message of prayer and solidarity to all those affected by Typhoon Haiyan:

"The news of the devastating storm in the Philippines is tragic, and my heart goes out to the people there. We are all deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the loss of thousands of lives and of the suffering of millions as a result of Typhoon Haiyan.

"Our prayers are with all who have lost loved ones and all those who are traumatised by the disaster and in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medical attention. We pray for those who are most vulnerable in this crisis: children separated from their parents, the sick and injured, the disabled and the elderly.

"As a Church, we will stand beside the people of the Philippines at this devastating time, offering all we can in practical and spiritual support as the scale of the disaster unfolds.

"I note that the relief work has already commenced and my prayer is that governments, agencies, churches and individuals will respond generously to help the people of the Philippines to recover and rebuild their shattered lives.

"May the victims of this terrible storm know God's comfort and derive strength from their faith."



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