Manila, Philippines, Dec 5, 2014 / 12:02 pm
With Super Typhoon Hagupit approaching, tens of thousands of people have fled the coasts, as disaster relief agencies prepare for the storm's aftermath and the Archbishop of Manila calls for prayers.
"People are very uneasy," Tom Price, senior communications manager with the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services, told CNA Dec. 4. "They are hunkering down and preparing for the worst. Hopefully, already damaged communities will be spared the worst."
"Please keep the people of the Philippines in your prayers," he said.
The storm is expected to make landfall on Saturday. It is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, with wind gusts estimated as high as 160 mph and rain of up to three-quarters of an inch per hour.
At least 100,000 people have fled coastal areas, and more are expected to move, the Red Cross told NBC News.
The evacuated include victims of last year's Super Typhoon Haiyan, many of whom are still living in tents. The November 2013 storm killed more than 7,300 people and displaced millions from their homes, with sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts as strong as 253 mph.
Hagupit, known in the Philippines as Ruby, is weaker in strength but still dangerous. Its slow movement could keep the storm over the Philippines until Wednesday, with sustained rainfall causing deadly landsides, debris flows and flash floods.
"It is a super typhoon but not quite as strong as Haiyan. At the least the Philippines is going to see very heavy rain and flooding," Price said.
He said a worst-case scenario would include a typhoon hit on the eastern central islands of Leyte and Samar – which Haiyan hit last year – or a typhoon strike on the national capital of Manila, where 18 million people live.
About 47 of the Philippines' 81 provinces are considered at risk from Hagupit.
"Catholic Relief Services has pre-positioned emergency supplies ready to be dispatched to the likely worst affected areas," Price said.
The supplies include water purification tablets, temporary shelter and hygiene kids that include soap and sanitary items.
The Catholic relief agency also has assessment teams in place to begin the relief response.
The agency and its church partners are currently working to ensure staff and facilities are safe, Price said.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, on Dec. 4 called on Philippines Catholics to say a prayer "for deliverance from calamities."
"Let our preparations include prayer. Let us humble ourselves and seek the mercy and compassion of God at this time of impending peril and destruction," he said.
"Along with our prayer for mercy and deliverance to God our Father, let us fill our hearts with compassion for those who are hungry, homeless, isolated by floods, threatened by strong winds and landslides. Let us pray that they may find food, shelter, and safety."