November, 14, 2013
Help Typhoon Haiyan Victims
By Mike McManus
“The smell of death is overwhelming,” said CNN’s Anderson
Cooper on Wednesday. “There are not enough body bags nor a governmental effort
to gather the bodies.” He pointed to corpses, adding “There are seven people and
a dog. Bodies are everywhere.”
A half mile away he loaned his satellite phone to a man so he could call his
mother. Weeping profusely, the man cried, “They are gone, all gone. I don’t know
why this happened to me.” His wife and two children died, and he felt like
committing suicide, but did not because his oldest daughter survived and needs
A day earlier, Cooper interviewed the mayor of Tacloban, a city where 225,000
people once thrived. The mayor had to punch holes in his roof to escape waves
coming in, overwhelming his home. “Debris is all over. It is difficult to get
into these places. We are paralyzed in city government. Of 300 policemen, only
30 are able to make it in; and of 1,300 employees, only 100 reported in. Only
through volunteer efforts are we able to recover bodies.”
You have seen the devastation on TV. You may not know the Philippines annually
experience 20 typhoons (what we call hurricanes). But none were like Super
Typhoon Haiyan that roared in with 200 mph winds, a 20 foot wave that engulfed
scores of towns and cities. There was no warning that a tsunami-like wave would
pour in. Many would have gone inland to higher ground.
Haiyan struck with such force on Friday that entire villages were flattened,
ships were swept inland and corpses were left hanging in trees.
There are acute shortages of food, water and shelter and massive looting by
desperate people. Even grocery store owners are hungry, because no new supplies
are coming in.
“I am still in shock. Our friends and family members are dead. I am the only
survivor of the family. The situation is worse than hell,” confessed Anna Coren.
For days the small airport at Tacloban could only operate by day when it was not
raining, due to the lack of electricity. However, U.S. Marines made it
operational on Tuesday and relief flights began coming it 24 hours a day –
carrying out passengers desperate to leave.
There are three basic and urgent needs: water, food and shelter. Five days after
the typhoon , the world’s response has been minimal. The U.S. government pledged
$20 million and the Chinese sent in one planeload of goods. What’s unloaded at
the airport can hardly be distributed through debris-filled streets. It takes
six hours to drive from the airport to Tacloban.
Amidst this horror, there is inspirational work being performed by Christian
international aid agencies. Here’s a profile of two who have been working in the
Philippines for decades:
Save the Children already had 300 workers on the ground, and expects to double
those numbers, according to Sonia Khush, the U.S.-based Director of Emergency
Services, who was in Tacloban when I interviewed her by phone while it was
evening here and morning over there.
“We are prioritizing what we can address first: life-saving needs. We are
focusing on clean water, shelter and health. We are bringing trucks into
Tacloban with water but are also seeing how existing water systems might be
filtered” she told me.
“We are establishing emergency health care, with mobile clinics and we have six
roving medical teams, one offering specialized trauma care.”
I asked her how the hospital is operating without electricity. “Generators is a
huge issue. We are working to get them from Manila, which is functional. It was
not affected by the typhoon, nor was Cebu,” she told me.
“Finally, Save the Children is working on how the get the children back into
school. We have been working in the Philippines for 30 years and are in it for
the long term.” She also noted, “I grew up in the Philippines, and have a
personal connection.” The ministry is appealing for $30 million to reach 500,000
people. To contribute go to SaveTheChildren.org.
World Vision has a permanent Philippine staff of 600 and has been there for five
decades, meeting the needs of 400,000 people. None of its workers died, though
many were displaced. It has already distributed 3,000 tarps and 4,000 blankets.
The nation has 10,000 islands, many of which are devastated. Often, roads are
non-functional. Yet World Vision is using motorcycles, boats and trucks to
deliver food, water and shelter. Go to WorldVision.org to contribute.
The untold story of Typhoon Haiyan is the work of Christian relief organizations
who are overcoming the nation’s paralysis.
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