Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan prompts call for prayer

Published 11 November 2013  |  Carey Lodge
(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A survivor salvages belongings from her damaged home at typhoon-ravaged Tacloban city, Leyte province central Philippines on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Authorities said at least 2 million people in 41 provinces had been affected by Friday's typhoon Haiyan and at least 23,000 houses had been damaged or destroyed.

Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history with winds reaching up to 200 mph, is continuing to have a devastating effect on the Philippines.

The storm struck the eastern shores of the country on Friday and continued to rage across the weekend, leaving severe destruction in its path.

Although the typhoon has now moved on to make landfall in northern Vietnam, where it has since weakened to tropical storm status, the Philippines is still suffering the effects of the catastrophe.

The country is no stranger to large-scale storms - Haiyan is the 25th tropical storm to hit the island group this year.

Tearfund said its local partners were working year-round with vulnerable communities to provide response training in the case of emergencies.

Early warning systems also meant that large-scale evacuations were implemented in advance of the typhoon.

However, despite the quick response of emergency services and humanitarian agencies, and initial hopes that the number of casualties would be low, the death toll has continued to climb.

Haiyan hit some of the poorest areas in the country, including Bohol, Romblon and Samar islands. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 people have died in Tacloban city alone, the coastal capital of Leyte province.

Tearfund is partnering with local churches to help those who have lost their homes and loved ones across the country, but efforts have been hindered as a result of power cuts and there are difficulties reaching many places devastated by the storm and the landslides it triggered.

"We keep hearing more and more bad news as the death toll figures increase," said Matthew Frost, Tearfund's Chief Executive, as he explained that communication with colleagues in the Philippines has been problematic.

"Our partners are in the evacuation centres, giving care to survivors who need food, water, and help to find their loved ones."

Rescue operations and food distributions have started to reach people in need, but there remain entire areas of the island where survivors have not yet been found.

Based in the capital city of Manila, Alwynn Javier, a Senior Programme Officer for Christian Aid, which has also launched a large-scale response to the typhoon, reports that the consequences of the storm are on a scale that has "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.

"Damage to buildings and infrastructure is extremely severe," he continued.

Tearfund is asking the church to remember that although Haiyan has now passed, the Philippines will be reeling from its devastating consequences long into the future.

"It can take years for people to rebuild their lives," said Frost.

"As well as the urgent and practical things, we know that there will be a lot of grief as people come to terms with bereavement. We must pray for 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 ... that [they] will stay safe and well on their travels, and that they would be able to bring hope to the people they meet."

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