CEBU CITY, Philippines (BP) -- Disaster relief teams are mounting a rapid-response assessment in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines at 5 a.m. local time Nov. 7.

Damage caused by the storm is expected to be catastrophic. More than 120,000 people were evacuated ahead of the storm, which was predicted to blast the islands with wind gusts of up to 235 miles per hour.

Government agencies are conducting continuous search-and-rescue activities, and a top priority has been placed on restoring power and communications in the area.

Stockpiles of relief supplies were moved into position before the storm to speed up the response effort, said Pat Melancon, managing director of disaster response and training for Baptist Global Response, who is monitoring reports from the region.

"The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan is still being assessed and drawing a limited response due to road conditions and other lingering issues," Melancon said. "A number of NGOs prepositioned stockpiles of water, sanitation and hygiene kits and are prepared to begin immediate distribution of those items to those in need.

"Initially, teams will carry out a rapid assessment as soon as possible, following up with subsequent in-depth assessments as time and the situation allow," Melancon added. "Water, food and shelter will be the priority for the next few days. Shelter solutions to meet the essential needs of all the disaster-affected population will be sought."

Haiyan is the most powerful typhoon on record to make landfall, according to news reports. The storm reportedly was moving twice as fast as the average cyclone when it struck land.

Relief efforts already were underway in the typhoon area because of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the islands of Cebu and Bohol on Oct. 15. Those relief efforts are being suspended until storm relief needs can be assessed.

Jeff Palmer, BGR's executive director, asked Southern Baptists to pray for families affected by the storm and those who will be engaging the relief effort.

Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, located at www.gobgr.org.

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