Nearly One Thousand Dead or Missing in Philippines as Churches Provide Relief

Four typhoons over a span of three weeks have wreaked havoc in at least five regions in the Philippines, sources report. As of Dec. 2, the number of people dead or missing in flash floods and landslides has reached nearly a thousand, while thousands more have been rendered homeless.

More than 160,000 people fled to high ground or crowded into schools and town halls Thursday as the latest typhoon, Nanmadol, battered the eastern Philippines, where rescuers are still struggling to find scores of missing from an earlier storm that killed more than 420 people, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this week, the fury of three typhoons caused massive and widespread mudslides and flash floods, turning entire provinces facing the Pacific Ocean into a sea of mud littered with bodies, uprooted trees, collapsed homes and bridges.

According to the New York Times, the military confirmed 492 fatalities, most of them from only three coastal towns in the eastern province of Quezon. Agence France-Presse reported about 400 others missing.

Typhoon Nanmadol, which made landfall late Thursday along the northeast coast, is reportedly hampering search and rescue efforts in areas earlier destroyed by storms. With sustained winds of up to 115 mph and gusts of up to 138 mph, Nanmadol has disrupted maritime rescue operations and partially grounded the Philippine air force, AP reported.

Action by Churches Together, a global alliance of churches and related agencies, reported that its member, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) along with member churches and regional councils in the affected regions, has started carrying out needs assessments.

“The heavy toll necessitates immediate emergency response, and the NCCP plans to conduct emergency relief deliveries to at least 6,500 families in Region III (Central Luzon), Region IV (Southern Tagalog), Region V (Bicol) and the National Capital Region (NCR),” ACT reported. The aid will comprise food, potable water, sleeping mats, plastic sheets and light blankets.

Medical missions will also be conducted.

As reported by ACT, the assistance will be distributed in coordination with the NCCP member churches, regional ecumenical councils, partner non-government organizations and peoples organizations in the affected areas. Initially, the NCCP has already distributed some 400 bags to families in Quezon Province and Camarines Sur Province.

According to ACT, Typhoons Muifa and Merbok battered Regions IV (Southern Tagalog), Region V (Bicol) and Region VI (Western Visayas). Tropical depression Winnie battered Region IV (Southern Tagalog). And Typhoon Nanmadol is currently venting its fury on Luzon Island (Region III) and part of Region VIII (Eastern Visayas).

In addition to the massive and widespread flooding, flash floods and landslides, the fury of these typhoons has also caused extensive damage to property, infrastructure and agriculture. Communication and power lines have been broken, major roads eroded or blocked by mud and debris leaving the affected areas isolated.

The estimated cost of NCCP’s project is 2.6 million pesos or 47,500 U.S. dollars.