President of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines, Archbishop Jose Palma, has called for a novena of prayer and charity for victims of a massive Typhoon Haiyan stating;  “No typhoon or flood can diminish the strength of the Filipino soul.”

Caritas Australia, the Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency, has committed  an initial $1 million to help in emergency relief efforts in the Philippines. Emergency supplies are now arriving in Cebu city.   Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, has caused widespread devastation. Almost 10 million people have been affected across 8,000 villages, 447 towns, 48 cities in nine regions across the country.

Pope Francis called for “concrete help” for the victims in the mostly Catholic country, saying the damage was enormous.   Teams from the Caritas network arrived at the port in Ormoc, Leyte on Sunday and travelled to Palo, near Tacloban city. Caritas Australia Head of Emergencies, Melville Fernandez, said emergency supplies, including shelter, water, sanitation and health kits were now arriving in Cebu city through the Caritas network.

“We have reports of hundreds queuing at airports in anticipation of desperately needed relief goods,” Mr Fernandez said.   “Our assessment teams are now in many of the worst affected areas. Travel has been extremely slow due to roads being clogged by debris from shelters.   “This disaster is on a scale that’s comparable to the 2004 tsunami. Our teams are reporting thousands of homes wiped out, trees and power lines uprooted and shops and other buildings destroyed.”

The Tropical Depression Zoraida is also threatening the Philippines. It is tracking towards north-eastern Mindanao and central Visayas and is expected to bring heavy rains in coming days. In Samar, the first location where the storm made landfall has about 733,000 people. Days after the typhoon struck many residents have still not been contactable and thousands are reported missing.

Director of Caritas Masbate, Monsignor Claro Caluya, Caritas Australia’s partner on the island province in the Philippines said the southern part of Masbate was badly affected with at least 600 homes destroyed and more than 4,000 damaged.   “Many homes were destroyed particularly in the southern part of Masbate and more than 4,000 people have had to stay in evacuation centres and emergency accommodation,” Monsignor Caluya said.   “At the moment in Masbate we are trying to account for everyone in all parts that were affected by the storm and there are some remote areas that we have not yet had communication with,” Monsignor Caluya said.   “The provincial government two days before the storm tried to convene the different risk reduction officers all over the province regarding this upcoming typhoon, and of course Caritas joined in.

So more or less in the coastal areas we were able to help all those in the low lying areas.”

Donate to Caritas Australia’s Typhoon Haiyan Appeal or phone 1800 024 413.

For more information contact: Media Advisor, Nicole Clements on 0408 869 833 [email protected]