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Catholic relief targets two centers ravaged by typhoon

Catholic Relief Services to rebuild homes in Palo and MacArthur

Catholic relief targets two centers ravaged by typhoon

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, president of Catholic Relief Services (left) and Archbishop John Du of Palo review damage to the cathedral in Palo (photo by Vincent Go)

Roi Lagarde and Joe Torres, Leyte province

November 18, 2013

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Catholic Relief Services, the international humanitarian agency of the US Catholic community, yesterday announced that it would prioritize the rebuilding of houses in the devastated towns of Palo and McArthur in Leyte province.

"We are going to put this part of the Philippines back together again. We are going to do the best we can to build," Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, CRS president, told

McCarrick yesterday visited Palo and nearby areas of Leyte that were badly hit by the super typhoon Haiyan on November 8, killing thousands of people and affecting at least some four million others.

The government said that while the worst hit provinces were Leyte and Eastern Samar, with a combined population of 2.3 million, a "State of National Calamity" has also been declared in the provinces of Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, and Palawan. 

Donal Reilly, deputy director of CRS Emergency Response Team, said the agency would set up office at the cathedral in Palo, which was devastated by the typhoon. 

The agency started distributing tarpaulins to serve as temporary shelters for those who lost their homes, as well as water and sanitation kits.

"I don't know how much yet, but this is going to cost a lot of money to rebuild," said Reilly in an interview. The CRS has pledged US$20 million to help typhoon victims "put their lives back together".

Palo, which has a population of 62,727, is home to the offices of the ecclesiastical government of the Archdiocese of Palo, the archbishop's residence and Catholic seminaries. 

"Geographically, we are going to start in Palo and all the way south towards McArthur at the moment," Reilly said.

The country's Catholic bishops' conference, meanwhile, called on Church organizations and religious groups to "adopt" a parish community in dioceses affected by the disaster. 

Archbishop Socrates Villegas Lingayen Dagupan, incoming president of the bishops' conference, said at least 32 parishes in the Diocese of Borongan in Samar province and 64 parishes in the Archdiocese of Palo can be adopted as "sister communities." 

"Hunger and sickness cannot wait. Do not wait for government. We must open all possibilities rather than get stuck at dead ends or roadblocks or broken bridges. We must be aggressive and creative in sending charity," the prelate said.

The Archdiocese of Manila has already donated US$803,000 to help in relief operations in several regions of the central Philippines. "We are one with our suffering brothers and sisters. You are not alone and will never be alone," Tagle said.

As of last Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs monitored 43 international donors that have pledged or have already sent assistance to support the ongoing relief and recovery operations in the areas affected by the super typhoon.

The current estimated value of international assistance has been pegged at US$126.8 million. The amount accounts only for relief donations to which donors assigned monetary values.

The UN today said up to 12.9 million people have been affected by the super typhoon while some 2.5 million need immediate aid and shelter.

Bernard Kerblat, country representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the immediate task is "to spread as much assistance as possible as there are 4.9 million people facing atrocious condition."

Emergency supplies started flowing to devastated areas only on Thursday last week upon the arrival of a US aircraft carrier that brought helicopters to ferry food and water to villages.

On Saturday, hundreds of bodies remained uncollected on the streets of Tacloban, the provincial capital with a population of 220,000, more than a week after the typhoon. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the preliminary number of people reported missing since the typhoon was 22,000, although the organization said the figure could include people who were already located.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs put the confirmed death toll at 4,460. It said some 921,200 people were displaced, out of a total of 11.8 million people affected, while some 243,600 houses were destroyed.

The government, however, pegged the death toll at 3,974 on Sunday but local authorities have said the death toll could reach as high as 14,000 people.

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