Philippines (MNN) — Tropical Storm Washi has left its oppressive mark on the southern Philippines, leaving many dead, missing, or homeless. The storm hit Mindanao Saturday when people were asleep. President Benigno S. C. Aquino III declared the area a state of calamity, just one week before Christmas.
That clears the way for relief and development groups to head to the region. Food for the Hungry is gearing up to help, says Peter Howard, their Director of Emergency Response. He describes what happened. "Within 12 hours, a month's worth of rain fell. So you can imagine rivers swelled, there were mudslides, and it really devastated the area. It also hit an area that doesn't typically get hit by storms."
The people weren't ready for this, says Howard. Worse yet, "When the storm hit, it caused incredible devastation, washing some people out to sea" — which explains why there are so many missing.
Howard says Food for the Hungry is responding. They have two people on the ground. "We're partnering with churches in the area. And right now, our main plan is to work with an evacuation center which has 3,000 families in it, helping them get food, hygiene kits, mats — kind of the basic necessities to help this evacuation center operate over the next couple of weeks."
Because Food for the Hungry is working with Christians, this could provide a great opportunity for outreach. "This storm hit the southern part of the Philippines in the Mindanao area which has a high Muslim population, so [it's] all the more reason, in my mind, that we as Christians can really reach out at this time and show our Muslim friends in the area that we can and want to serve them."
The government's calamity declaration will freeze prices of goods and services in the area and provide no-interest loans to those rebuilding homes and businesses. The government is also reviewing preventive measures and will be deploying automatic water level sensors in the 18 major river basins.
Howard says because this region is unfamiliar with this kind of weather, "The warning systems really weren't very well in place in that area. So it was kind of the perfect storm, in the negative sense."
This will be difficult for many victims. "People were preparing for Christmas and had no idea anything was coming their way. So those who had great hopes for a nice Christmas together as families are now stuck in evacuation centers," says Howard.
He's asking Christians worldwide to pray, and to be a James 1:22 Christian and do something about it. Your financial support will help supply food and the Gospel. Click here to support Food for the Hungry's work.