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CURRENT ISSUE:  December 11, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 22Oakland, CA

Oakland deacon describes typhoon disaster in Bicol

Super Typhoon Durian, the powerful storm that devastated parts of the Philippines on Nov. 30, did not spare the town of San Fernando Camarines Sur, the Bicol community where Oakland Deacon Stanley Lee has worked for the past five years.

Durian barreled through San Fernando, killing 15 local people, sweeping away the chapel, and destroying 50 percent of the homes. “Shelter from the rain and sun is what is urgently needed next to food,” Deacon Lee wrote in a Dec. 5 e-mail asking for aid.

Lee, director of the Christian Life Community in San Fernando since 2001, said both the physical damage and emotional heartache are so bad, “I can’t even cry. The whole scene is unbelievable.”

In his missive, Lee reported that “battering from the storm lasted for 12 hours in our town, and I am sure everyone was praying the prayer of the desperate – ‘Tama na, Lord, Enough, Lord.’ The day after, it was like a war zone, except for signs of fire and smoke. Trees ripped apart, crushing houses and buildings; electric posts and power lines cut down like play sticks, flying debris of all kinds strewn all over.”

As bad as the situation is in his community, things are far worse elsewhere, he underlined.

“In the Albay province mudslides killed more than a thousand people. In Rapu-Rapu Island, a priest just sent me an e-mail that their church and convent lost their roofs and 95 percent of the population is homeless.”

As Lee was writing his e-mail, Catholic News Service reported that more than 1.09 million people in 13 provinces were affected by the Nov. 30 typhoon, which brought heavy rains and wind gusts of up to 165 mph before moving on to southern Vietnam where damage was less severe.

Residents from the Marinduque province reported the wind sounded like a jumbo jet hovering above their rooftops. Tens of thousands of houses were destroyed. Nearly 23, 0000 people have sought refuge in 129 evacuation centers.

Filipino soldiers dig at a river bank Dec. 3 as they search for six students believed to be buried after their dormitory collapsed in Legazpi City, south of Manila, during Typhoon Durian. Philippine officials fear up to 1,000 people were killed in landslides and floods from the typhoon.

Women working in Manila react after learning that their relatives died in Typhoon Durian.

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Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared a state of national calamity and ordered the release of money for relief and rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, Catholic Relief Services announced on Dec. 6 that it has committed $500,000 to provide emergency relief and recovery assistance to families. CRS is working with Caritas Philippines, its local church partner, in assessing the damage, meeting immediate needs and planning for longer term assistance.

CRS and Caritas have already distributed 900 bags of rice, and in one diocese alone, are providing immediate assistance to 4,000 families at a number of refuge sites. The agencies will also distribute urgently needed supplies, including food, kitchen utensils, medicine and shelter materials such as blankets, mosquito nets and sleeping mats.

Catholic Voice readers who want to help Deacon Lee can send their contributions to him through the Ethnic Pastoral Centers of the Oakland Diocese. Checks should be made out to: EPC-Typhoon Fund, c/o Sister Felicia Sarati, 3014 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610.

To make a contribution to Catholic Relief Services, donate on line at:www.crs.org; by phone at 1-877-HELP-CRS, or send a check to Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203-7090 with a Memo Line: SE Asia Natural Disasters – Philippines.


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