Typhoon Goni hits Philippines, compounding damage of storms and coronavirus

Typhoon Goni Oct 30 2020 Credit NASA Typhoon Goni, Oct. 30, 2020. | NASA (public domain).

Typhoon Goni has hit the Philippines, killing several people and causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes as the country struggles to recover from two other recent major storms and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international aid agency, is reaching out to help.

"We're working hand-in-hand with the local Church and Caritas Philippines to provide lifesaving support to families, such as making sure that they have access to safe drinking water and adequate shelter," Nikki Gamer, media relations manager for CRS, told CNA Nov.4. "We're also continuing to assess the damage and plan for ongoing support if needed."

Typhoon Goni, locally known as Rolly, hit parts of the Philippines Nov. 1. Its peak winds reached 195 miles per hour. It was comparable in strength to the devastating 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which killed some 6,000 people and damaged or destroyed 4 million homes.

The latest storm passed south of Manila but took out power in 125 cities and towns. About 2 million people were in the storm's path, the Washington Post reports.

At least 20 people died and 10,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed.

Abay province suffered heavily, and San Francisco village in the town of Guinobatan was buried when rain and water drove mud and rocks down the slope of the Mayon Volcano.

Debris, flood, and landslides have blocked several land routes and several bridges have been destroyed. Several thousand personnel and 700 vehicles and heavy equipment have been deployed to clear roads.

The province of Catanduanes was unreachable by phone and its airport tower was not responsive. Communication was restored after a day without contact.

Gamer said over 1.7 million people have been affected.

Some 389,000 people are estimated to have evacuated their homes and taken refuge in churches, courts, and schools. Health officials have asked them to continue to follow practices to limit the spread of coronavirus.

"The COVID-19 pandemic makes the situation more fraught as social distancing and protection measures are difficult to adhere to in crowded evacuation centers," Gamer told CNA. "What's more, COVID-19-related travel restrictions have further complicated humanitarian efforts."

Catholic Relief Services is the U.S. branch of Caritas International, the Catholic Church's humanitarian relief network, which is helping Caritas Philippines in its emergency response efforts.

"Several Caritas International member organizations have responded not only with messages of solidarity, but likewise an offer to help in any way possible," Bishop Jose Colin Mendoza Bagaforo of Kidapawan, national director of Caritas Philippines, told CBCP News.

Bagaforo appealed for the world to send aid, saying funds will help provide food, water, and emergency shelter.

He said the typhoon will bring greater poverty to the affected regions.

"With humility, we appeal for everyone's sincere acts of kindness, generosity and compassion," he said.

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Gamer said the coronavirus and extreme weather events mean aid agencies need to prepare communities to be resilient.

"We're greatly concerned about two ongoing issues impacting the Philippines and many other countries where we work – COVID-19 and climate change. Just like in the U.S., the secondary impacts of coronavirus have affected the economy and the ability of families to put food on the table," Gamer told CNA.

"Meanwhile, the impacts of climate change – such as stronger and more frequent storms – are devastating livelihoods," she said. "When Typhoon Goni struck, people were still reeling from Typhoon Quinta, which hit the same area just last week. People in the Philippines are bracing for at least five or six more typhoons this season. That's why we're strengthening local communities so that they're more resilient to these types of crises in the future."

Gamer also noted the generosity of Catholics in America.

"We're extremely grateful for the unwavering support of American Catholics who continue to support our global mission despite all that's happening here at home," she said.

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