Catastrophe in the Philippines: typhoons and volcanoes

By January 17, 2020

Philippines (MNN) – The Philippines are reeling after the one-two-punch of typhoons and then the sucker punch from a volcanic eruption.

Typhoon Kammuri nearing the Philippines on December 2 (Image courtesy NASA, MODIS / LANCE Rapid Response )

First, Typhoon Tisoy (Kammuri, the international name) struck at the beginning of December, making landfall as the equivalent of a Category 4 Atlantic Hurricane.  The storm affected 7,364, but damage estimates are running in excess of $67 million.

Typhoon Phanfone passing through the Philippines on Christmas Day. (Image courtesy NASA)

That was followed three weeks later by Typhoon Ursula (Phanphone, the international name), which made landfall on Christmas Eve as a Category 1 hurricane.   Compassion identified the affected as 604 beneficiaries and seven Child Development Centers (CDCs).  Ursula ripped apart houses, businesses, churches, roads, and government buildings, killing at least 50. What’s more, this storm affected almost the same areas hit by Tisoy: Visayas and Luzon, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Biliran, Aklan, Oriental Mindoro, Iloilo, and Antique.

Impact on Compassion in the Philippines

For safety reasons, Compassion decided to halt many of its operations during the final weeks of December.  Compassion spokesman Mark Pitoc, speaking to MNN from the Philippines, says, “It was tough in the first days, because some of our partnership facilitators, their houses were ruined. But it’s because of the love for these children that brought us to reach out (to) those children that we are taking care of.”

As for the storms’ survivors, Pitoc says, “Some of them were relocated, but already returned to their houses, electricity has been restored. It’s just that some areas were flooded, their houses were ruined, and even their livelihood was devastated. But little by little, everything (the infrastructure) has been restored now.”

Another disaster

Then on January 12, the Taal Volcano erupted (37 miles south of the capital city of Manila), spewing tons of ash and lava. Over the last five days, seismologists recorded more than 300 earthquakes in the area. “According to the government, it’s still in level four alert—(it) means that the volcano is still active. We received some reports that five cities and municipalities in Batangas where the volcano is located were forced evacuation.”

The difficulty is in knowing when people can return home. Taal is notoriously temperamental; it’s the second most active volcano in the Philippines, with 34 recorded historical eruptions. Experts warn future volcano eruptions could cause tsunami. The volcano could rumble for days, but not blow. It could also explode magma and lava tomorrow. There’s no way to tell for sure, which makes the waiting interminable.

A cup of cold water in Jesus’ name

(Photo courtesy Compassion International)

Pitoc says while they don’t have church partners in Batanga, nearest the volcano, they are mobilizing a response. “We bought some items like diapers, clothes, towels, sanitary napkins, all the stuff that they need. We already bought it.” That shipment will go out in the next couple of days. A church pastor serving in Batanga with Asian Access says the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches opened its training center to the evacuees until authorities send the ‘all-clear.’

The triple disasters are particularly difficult from which to recover, although the Filipinos are resilient. In the aftermath, pray:

  • For children and family members who have been injured or displaced.
  • For those who have lost loved ones, that God would comfort them.
  • For church staff and emergency workers as they reach out to those affected by these disasters.

 (Headline photo courtesy Mike Gonzalez/Wikipedia/CC)

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