Hundreds of thousands of people in the Philippines face the prospect of being left homeless this Christmas after super typhoon Rai (local name: Odette) left a trail of destruction in its wake.
The typhoon, which hit the Philippines last week, has caused massive destruction “as far as the eye can see,” said a report on Vatican News.
The death toll has already risen to about 400 and the race continues to find survivors.
The typhoon slammed into the Philippines as the predominantly Catholic country prepared for traditional Christmas celebrations.
The storm 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 currently living below the poverty line.
Father Antonio Labiao, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, told Vatican Radio that he had just returned from the devastated province 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,” said the priest.
Assessing the damage in the area, Father Labiao 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,” he added.
An estimated 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 Father Labiao, who hopes that power and telecommunications can be restored as soon as possible.
Caritas Philippines is currently assessing needs on the ground in the affected areas, said the priest, adding that from the reports they are getting from churches and dioceses, the most basic needs include food, water, hygiene kits, temporary shelter kits and medicines.
“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 already pledged to support the Philippines, through the Asia Emergency Appeal, in emergency response and rebuilding efforts.
Father Labiao said the 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,” he said.
There will be two days of “national prayer” on December 25 and 26 for all those impacted by the disaster in the Philippines. – from a Vatican News report