Typhoon relief begins for Philippine islands

Baptist Press
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Posted: Nov 11, 2013 5:22 PM
CEBU, Philippines (BP) -- Southern Baptist relief efforts are underway in various islands of the Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the island nation on Friday (Nov. 8), leaving thousands devastated and cut off from food, water and outside communication.

International Mission Board personnel have met to discuss relief plans and will travel into disaster-stricken areas on several islands to assess needs and distribute food and water.

In the coming days, IMB personnel hope to travel to Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte province and the hardest-hit area. Currently, however, access to the eastern side of Leyte is not possible. IMB representative Stan Smith said Baptist Global Relief teams are ready to bring aid once travel into Tacloban City is possible.

Tacloban City's airport suffered extensive damage, making access to the region extremely difficult. Roads and bridges are demolished in many areas and cell phone towers have been leveled. Many relief teams have been unable to access Tacloban City. On Sunday, CNN reported, roads were cleared enough to allow helicopters access.

The government in the Philippines has confirmed more than 150 deaths so far. The number is expected to be much higher -- some sources say the death toll could be as high as 10,000.

On Sunday, IMB representative Mark Moses met with key Filipino leaders on the island of Panay and discussed relief plans there.

Food and clean water are urgent needs in many remote areas of Panay.

Moses purchased bags of rice and canned goods using relief funds donated by Southern Baptists. Moses and his team plan to pack the goods into family sized portions. On Monday (Nov. 11), he planned to travel north into the interior of Panay to areas where he has church partnerships. He will distribute the food and do an assessment of further needs.

On Tuesday, Moses will travel east along Panay's coastline, assessing needs and passing out packets of food.

"Currently, we still have no communications with these areas; electrical lines and communication towers are still down," Moses said. "Hopefully by tomorrow, some roads will be passable so we can reach them."

Moses said after assessments are completed, relief funds will be used to help displaced Filipinos rebuild their homes. Funds also will be used to purchase basic medicine.

The Panay province of Antique is priority area for relief aid, Moses said. The center of the typhoon passed through the province and the only road leading into the area most likely is washed out. Moses said it will take him several days to reach the province.

"As I see pictures of the devastation in Leyte and Samar, specifically Tacloban City, the destruction here is not as desperate as it is along the eastern coast of the Philippines," Moses said.

"Still, for anyone who has a house that's been destroyed, it's serious."

The destroyed houses Moses has seen in his area are made of lightweight materials like bamboo.

In Iloilo City, a major city in Panay, life is slowly starting to return to normal, but for many in the Philippines normalcy is nowhere in sight.

"In the interior, closer to where the center of the storm passed, families are struggling to recover from one of the worst natural disasters they have ever experienced," Moses said.

In the Cebu province, downed trees litter the streets of Cebu City and many families are without roofs. Smith said the sun was shining today in Cebu City and people have started the recovery process.

Smith said he prayed for a softening of the impact of the typhoon. In the southern part of Cebu island, that prayer was answered.

"We are so thankful to God's grace and in softening the impact here," Smith said.

The damage is more extensive in northern Cebu. Smith said 90 percent of the homes in one of their ministry areas in northern Cebu were destroyed.

The island of Bohol in the Philippines has weathered two disasters, October's deadly earthquake and now Typhoon Haiyan. Smith spoke Sunday morning with a ministry partner from Bohol about continued plans for rebuilding after the earthquake and how to meet needs from Friday's typhoon.

In the coming days, "we will just stay tuned to what the Lord wants us to be uniquely doing," Smith said.

Among prayer requests relayed by IMB workers:

-- for safety as they and Filipino believers travel to disaster areas.

-- for wisdom as they make plans for disaster relief.

-- for opportunities to share their faith.

-- for the thousands who are grieving the loss of loved ones.

Financial gifts to provide food, clean water and building materials for Filipinos can be made through https://netcommunity.imb.org/Page.aspx?pid=228.

Caroline Anderson writes for the International Mission Board Southeast Asia. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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