Deadly floods in Philippines trigger Catholic response
By Kevin J. Jones
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.- Catholic organizations are helping organize aid for the victims of Typhoon Sendong in the Philippines after it caused flash floods that have killed hundreds of people and left thousands homeless.

“Thousands are in the evacuation centers, many are women and children—hungry, chilling, crying,” the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines of the Northern Mindanao Region said on its website.

Tropical Storm Washi, known locally as Typhoon Sendong, made landfall on Friday Dec. 16, striking several provinces of Northern Mindanao on the second-largest island of the Philippines.

At least 927 were killed by the storm and floods, while at least 800 are still missing. About 143,000 people were affected and 45,000 fled to evacuation centers, the Associated Press reports.

Most of the victims were asleep when the floodwaters came from the mountains, which were inundated with 12 hours of rainfall.

“Some people don’t even have shoes – their sandals were pulled off their feet in the flood,” said Joe Curry, Catholic Relief Services’ country representative for the Philippines, who said some people had lost everything.

The disaster is without precedent in the area.

The Catholic Relief Services office in Davao has sent a needs assessment team to Cagayan de Oro City, the site of some of the most severe devastation. The organization is working with its partners, Caritas Philippines, the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and Xavier University, as well as with the Philippine government.

“We’ve seen that people in the flood’s path need basic household goods like water jugs, cooking utensils and soap. Water is most important over the next few days. The government has distributed food to some people, but they don’t have water or pots to cook a meal,” Curry reported.

About 80 percent of Cagayan de Oro City’s 600,000 people are without running water. The floods washed out the city’s water main and the pumping stations along the river. Government officials say it could be up to 30 days before water is restored to most of the city.

“I’m hopeful that we will be able to reach people quickly and help them meet their most urgent needs,” Curry said. “We’re seeing people in the community pull together and share what little they have.”

Archbishop Tony Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro is playing an important role in facilitating cooperation between non-profits and the government in the flood response, Catholic Relief Services says.

Catholic Relief Services Philippines is the organization’s oldest continuously operating program. It launched in 1945 to provide war relief.

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January 27, 2015

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