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Vatican official praises Filipino spirit after Typhoon Haiyan

Death toll passes 4,000: UN says situation not yet normalized

Vatican official praises Filipino spirit after Typhoon Haiyan

Relief goods continue to pour into Tacloban and other devastated areas, though the UN reports logistical difficulties in their distribution (picture: Joe Torres)

Joe Torres, Manila

November 20, 2013

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As the official death toll from Super Typhoon Haiyan passed 4,000, a visiting Vatican official today expressed admiration for the courage of the Filipino people.

"We have been watching over the last few days, and we have been seeing the terrible devastation," Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told a forum in Manila today.

"I come here on behalf of the Vatican... there is a sense of solidarity and belonging with the Filipino people all over the world,” he said, adding praise for the innate Filipino spirit and sense of generosity that has “brought so much joy and good news to the whole of the world.”

Meanwhile, the executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate, urged the people of the Philippines to "outgrow" the perception that the disaster was a punishment from God.

"We have to graduate from that and say that it is a natural calamity," said Dr. Natividad Pagadut, adding that the Filipinos' faith "helps us to cling on to God, to stand up again and go on."

With the recorded number of fatalities now at 4,011, and with 18,557 injured and 1,602 still missing, the United Nations Humanitarian Affairs Office said the situation, particularly in the devastated city of Tacloban, has still not normalized.

Spokeswoman Valerie Amos said relief efforts have only reached 1.1 million people, with 837,900 food packs delivered, because of "logistical problems." She estimates that a total of 2.5 million people are in need of food aid.

"The needs are immense," she told a press conference in Makati City last night. "Making sure everyone has safe water to drink remains a major challenge in many areas including in island towns."

She also admitted that the UN team has not yet fully engaged with the task of retrieving and identifying bodies. "We are still at the stage of getting relief aid from various countries. Release of these supplies comes first," she said.

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