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CURRENT ISSUE:  October 5, 2009
VOL. 47, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Families losing homes organize in East Contra Costa to hold banks accountable for loan modifications
Catholic leaders: immediate action on climate change
Typhoon, tsunami, quake: Agencies
respond to four disasters in one week
Following a flash flood brought on by a severe storm, a man takes a break from cleaning in a middle-class neighborhood in Marikina, Philippines.
CNS photo/Erik de Castro, Reuters
How to help
Donations for typhoon, tsunami and quake victims can be sent to Catholic Relief Services:
Phone: 1-877-HELP-CRS       Online: www.crs.org
Check: Catholic Relief Services
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090

Catholic Relief Services, the international relief agency of the Church in the U.S., is mobilizing to respond to four major natural disasters that ravaged communities in the Philippines, Vietnam, Samoa and Sumatra last week. “These are our brothers and sisters who are in dire need,” said CRS President Ken Hackett. “We will do all we can to help.”

After Typhoon Ketsana (known locally as Typhoon Ondoy) made landfall in The Philippines, Sept. 26, more than 80 percent of the capital city Manila experienced major flooding. More than 250 people died in the flooding and mudslides.

“The mud is horrible,” said Luc Picard, CRS representative in Manila. “People’s houses were completely submerged, and now they’ve basically lost everything. In some towns, they’re using front end loaders to clean the mud off the streets. Figuring out what to do with all that mud will be a challenge.”

Two days after dropping torrential rains in Manila, the typhoon hit Vietnam where more than 150,000 homes were severely damaged. Road washouts and mudslides have hindered emergency response efforts, CRS officials said.

The following day an 8.3 magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that washed over Samoa where residents lost homes and livelihoods to the 15-foot waves.

Then on Sept. 30 a 7.6 earthquake struck the Indonesian Island of Sumatra. As The Voice went to press, the country’s crisis center said it expects a death total of at least 1,000.

“We have mobilized, and with our Caritas partners we are providing emergency assistance to families affected by all these disasters, Hackett said. Caritas is the umbrella organization of Catholic aid agencies.

In Manila, Picard said that after the storm approximately 100,000 families were sheltered in temporary housing, elementary schools and churches. While some families will be able to go back home soon, others have lost everything.

A destroyed structure is seen among debris near a church following a tsunami in the village of Leone, American Samoa, Sept. 29. A magnitude 8 undersea earthquake set off a series of four giant waves that killed more than 100 people and caused major property damage on the islands of Upolu and Savaii.
Filipinos living in the San Francisco Bay Area have been very anxious about their loved ones, said Father Geoffrey Baraan, pastor of St. Anne Parish in Union City. About 95 percent of his parishioners are Filipino and many of them are from the area hit by the flooding.

He said the amount of waste dumped on city streets because of poor garbage pick-up prevented drainage and contributed to the floods. “The water had no place to go,” he told The Voice. “Now these poor people who are already suffering greatly because of poor economic conditions, have had everything taken away.”

CRS said it was providing immediate food aid, blankets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats and soap, among other basic necessities through Caritas. Impassable roads made rescue efforts challenging, and power and water supplies failed in some areas.

The government declared a “state of calamity” in Manila and 23 provinces.

Officials at Caritas said it was providing aid to 10,000 families. Development and Peace, the Canadian Catholic bishops’ international aid agency pledged $50,000 in initial aid and the Knights of Columbus gave $50,000 to the Philippine bishops’ conference to use for disaster relief.

Parishes in the Oakland Diocese were taking up a second collection. The funds will be sent to Catholic Relief Services, said Father George Mockel, vicar general.

By late Sept. 29, more than 240 people had died, and the death toll was expected to rise.

The equivalent of a month’s worth of rain fell in six hours and, at one point, more than 80 percent of Manila was under water.

As part of disaster-relief efforts, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo opened the presidential palace to flood survivors. She also donated two months of her salary for relief and rehabilitation efforts and ordered her Cabinet to do the same.

Metropolitan Manila was the worst-hit in terms of flooding and damage, while Rizal had the highest number of casualties due to landslides and flash floods, said Caritas Philippines.

In the province of Pampanga, more than 200 villages were submerged. A landslide occurred in Arayat, affecting 174 families, who were temporarily housed in five evacuation centers, mostly schools and chapels, said Caritas Philippines.

Catholic Relief Services is also planning to provide aid to victims of flooding in Vietnam, where the storm hit on Sept. 29. Its collections to assist with recovery efforts in Samoa, where a violent tsunami struck Sept. 29, killing more than 100 people and causing major property damage, will be directed to Caritas.

Earlier in September, Caritas in Samoa hosted other Caritas members from the Oceania region for a conference that included a trial run for a tsunami response. The tsunami Sept. 29 destroyed the center in which those meetings where held.

A group of Caritas staff visited one of the worst-hit areas on the south side of Upolu. They led survivors to high ground, cleared land and prepared temporary shelters, according to a Caritas statement.

Caritas was collaborating with the National Disaster Team and the Red Cross to coordinate a plan for the tsunami response. It was also cooperating with a local Catholic school and other members of the community to respond to the emergency, the statement said.

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