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Philippines

Church agencies start helping Philippine typhoon victims

At least four dead, half a million people displaced as Kammuri leaves a trail of destruction

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: December 04, 2019 10:23 AM GMT

Updated: December 04, 2019 01:14 PM GMT

Church agencies start helping Philippine typhoon victims

Residents sift through debris that was carried by strong waves to shore during the height of Typhoon Kammuri that hit the Philippine province of Albay on Dec. 3. (Photo by Basilio Sepe for Greenpeace)

Catholic Church groups have deployed teams to assist affected communities a day after a powerful typhoon hit the Philippines on Dec. 3, leaving at least four people dead.

Videos posted on social media showed strong winds ripping off roofs and toppling power lines in the Bicol region, south of Philippine capital Manila.

Manila’s international airport was shut down for 12 hours as Typhoon Kammuri barreled across the country, bringing with it powerful winds and heavy rain.

Authorities estimated that about half a million people were displaced, many of whom were ordered to leave their homes hours before the typhoon struck.

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said several schools and houses made of light materials were destroyed in Albay province.

"Our team is assessing the damage brought by Kammuri," said the senator, adding that volunteers and staff are already on the ground monitoring and assessing the situation.

In Legazpi Diocese, which was one of the worst affected areas, the Church’s social action director Father Rex Arjona said his teams have already assessed the immediate needs of people.

"The worst is over for us," he said, adding that his office is still waiting for a complete picture of the situation. "We will go around as much as we can to get a more substantial assessment," he said.

In the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose in Mindoro province, the Catholic Church's radio station stopped broadcasting after the station's antenna was blown over by strong winds.

Father Silvino Enriquez, social communications director of the vicariate, also reported that several electric poles fell causing a blackout in many areas.
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Meanwhile, Father Toni Ryan del Moro, chancellor of Gumaca Diocese, appealed for help for affected communities in Quezon province.

"Let us prepare whatever we have to help, especially since Christmas is near," said the priest. "Let us give help to everyone, even those with different religions."

Gumaca Diocese had earlier opened its churches and convents for people affected by the typhoon.

"We prepared our parishes," said Bishop Victor Ocampo of Gumaca, adding that food and other relief items were distributed to disaster victims.

In a statement, environmental group Greenpeace called for "climate justice" in the wake of the destruction brought by Typhoon Kammuri.

Its onslaught this week coincided with the start of United Nations climate talks in Madrid.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Yeb Sano said the meeting comes at a "pivotal time" when countries must acknowledge the need to stop "drilling, digging and burning fossil fuels."

A U.N. report released last month revealed that the world is producing more fossil fuels than ever, inconsistent with the need to keep global temperatures from rising.

Sano expressed concern over the damage brought by Typhoon Kammuri, which has also destroyed livelihood sources for thousands of people living in low-lying areas.

"The Philippines is regularly battered with extreme weather events that are getting more severe with climate change," he said.

"We are in a climate emergency. Now more than ever is the time to act," he said as he called on world leaders to not simply deliver speeches, but instead “work together to protect our people."

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