TYPHOON HAIYAN (‘YOLANDA’) IN THE PHILIPPINES
Cagayán de Oro, Philippines, 12 November 2013
We thank you for keeping the people of the Philippines, who have suffered so much recently, in your prayers.
First Muslim rebels from Zamboanga attacked, using civilians as a human shield and burning people’s homes in three municipalities, forcing residents to flee and take refuge in shelters. Economic losses are in the billions of pesos, although I cannot give you an exact figure.
A few weeks later came the earthquake in Bohol, an island not far from Cagayán de Oro; churches of great historical value were destroyed, along with the homes of thousands of people. The quake caused a considerable number of deaths and material damage.
Then came Typhoon Haiyan (called ‘Yolanda’ in the Philippines), and its 330 kph winds. It destroyed an entire city, Tacloban, where the roofs of buildings were blown off and the sea reached heights of over ten metres. Cameras showed people running to take shelter but the water came so fast that they drowned; children, adults . . . no one was spared. In another area some people took shelter in the church, but it was flooded and everyone died. The pictures of the effects of the typhoon are just devastating.
Lilian is from Leyte. Her relatives lived in Tacloban . . . She hasn’t heard from anyone but a cousin, who was finally able to reach someone in the family, but that’s just one part of the family. Where are the rest of them? They just don’t know. Her mother is very worried: she hasn’t heard from her elderly brother. Our novice Bebe is very close to her grandmother, who is like a mother to her. Bebe’s grandmother lives in Leyte. She hasn’t heard from her either . . . Misery, despair and hopelessness are all around us.
The Company of Mary is currently working on coordinating with a group from the Diocese that is exploring the area so that they can decide where volunteers are needed. Once the decision is made, our young sisters will go there to volunteer, along with some young people and missionaries. But now we just have to wait, because we can’t act on our own.
When the typhoon was on its way, we prayed that it wouldn’t reach Cagayan de Oro, as the area is still feeling the effects of the severe tropical storm Washi (called Sendong here), which hit the area in 2011, killing 1200 people and destroying our field missions. But that doesn’t even come close to what has happened in Leyte. As you can see, the Philippine people, the whole nation, are suffering. The pictures speak to the suffering of our people.
You may wonder why so many buildings were completely destroyed by the typhoon . . . In part the destruction is due to the fact that the buildings were made of lightweight materials, bamboo and palm wood. Most of these people, who live along the beach, are fishing families living hand to mouth. The high wind speeds and climate change were also factors in this great tragedy.
We want to thank you for your messages of support, love and concern at this time, when we, too, are feeling the great pain of our people.
Our warmest regards to all of you.
Lucero Marquez, odn
and the sisters of our communities in the Philippines.