.- Catholic relief agencies are working to help the victims of Typhoon Bopha, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year.
Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu said the Philippines bishops’ conference has mobilized social action centers in the 86 dioceses in the country, according to CBCP News.
“Our hearts bleed for the victims of the typhoon,” he said Dec. 6. “Our charity should reach out to those who are in need.”
Five teams from the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services have visited village and towns to survey the damage and determine residents’ immediate needs, the agency said Dec. 5. The typhoon affected the southern island of Mindanao, causing considerable damage in the provinces of Compostela and Davao Oriental. Many lack electricity and communications are poor.
Catholic Relief Services intends to provide hygiene and sanitation kids, sleeping mats, blankets and tarps.
Before Typhoon Bopha hit the country, the government evacuated more than 160,000 people. The storm, known locally as Typhoon Pablo, struck regions that normally do not receive such strong weather.
Over 350 have died and nearly 400 are missing. The storm caused millions of dollars in damage and many are in need of basic necessities like food, water and clothing.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a Dec. 6 message to Archbishop Palma, who heads the Philippines bishops’ conference. The Pope conveyed his “heartfelt condolences to the families of all who mourn.” He said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the loss of life the typhoon caused.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who relayed the Pope’s message, said the pontiff is praying for the dead and for rescue workers.
Caritas Manila is preparing food parcels and other basic needs for those displaced by the typhoon. The Archdiocese of Manila has already sent initial cash assistance to the dioceses most severely affected by the storm.
The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, the official Catholic aid agency for England and Wales, has said it will also help storm victims.
About 20 typhoons strike the Philippines each year. In December 2011, Typhoon Washi hit northern Mindanao and killed 1,500 people.
Catholic Relief Services built more than 1,800 transitional shelters earlier this year. Eight of these were damaged by Typhoon Bopha.