11/11/2013, 00.00
PHILIPPINES

Filipino Bishops: Faith of Catholics stronger than Typhoon Haiyan

The President of the Episcopal Conference launches a message of hope to a country ravaged by "absolute pandemonium" , as it was described by the head of the Red Cross . Over 10 thousand estimated victims, but the toll is still tentative. Solidarity of the archbishop of Seou who offers prayers and a contribution for emergency response. Haiyan / Yolanda reaches Vietnam, but downgraded to a tropical storm.

Manila ( AsiaNews) - No typhoon or flood will ever defeat the "strength" of the Filipinos , the cataclysm that has " devastated " the center of the country "may even be the worst the world has ever seen", but faith in God is "even stronger". This was stated by the president of the Philippines Bishops' Conference, Msgr. Jose Palma, in a message meant to instill "hope" in a nation brought to its knees by the passage of Haiyan. Meanwhile, the operations of rescue teams for the survivors continue and the body count - according to still partial estimates - is more than 10 thousand dead. The head of the Philippines Red Cross described the devastation caused by Typhoon - renamed Yolanda on the archipelago - as "absolute pandemonium". Yesterday at the Angelus Pope Francis asked for prayers and "concrete" help for the Philippines. This morning the Archbishop of Seoul Msgr. Andrew Yeom Soo- jung sent his condolences to Card. Luis Antonio Tagle , Archbishop of Manila and assured the prayers of the South Korean Catholics , the Archdiocese of Seoul also sent 50 thousand dollars for emergency operations of aid and assistance , along with a special collection on Sunday 24th of November in all the parishes.

Initial reports speak of at least 10 thousand deaths in Tacloban alone, a city of 200 thousand people about 600 km south- east of Manila, hundreds of victims scattered in other towns overturned by the typhoon, even if the count is only partial and more time is needed for a more accurate assessment . According to the Philippine Civil Protection (the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council , NDRRMC ) nearly one million affected are families, the equivalent to 4.28 million people. More than 405 of them, adds Unicef, are children or teenagers under the age of 18.

In various parts of the Philippine archipelago homes, schools and even an airport have been destroyed or badly damaged. The international rescue machine has been set in motion, but there are still many difficulties in reaching the most isolated and remote areas, where the effects of the passage of the typhoon are not yet clear. The Philippine Consul General in the United Kingdom pointed out that "the world has never seen a storm like this before". Rescue efforts are concentrated in the eastern province of Leyte, where the emergency is most serious. President Benigno Aquino has not ruled out the introduction of martial law or the declaration of a state of emergency in many parts as hooligans have already started looting, while unidentified victims are buried in mass graves.

In the last hours Haiyan touched down in the north of Vietnam, near the border with China , but its force has been greatly reduced to the point it has been downgraded to a tropical storm , and it seems to have caused no major disruption although the authorities in Hanoi had ordered the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people .

Meanwhile, the Filipino Catholic Church urges the population to have courage and faith in this  time of great adversity. Archbishop Palma observes that "no calamity or natural disaster can quench the fire of our hope." The prelate ensures the presence and participation of the entire Episcopal Conference in this time of trial and invites the faithful to turn to God "in this time of national calamity ," as every Filipino has always done " in the last 400 years." From 11 to 19 November a novena of prayer will be held across the country for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda and the earthquake that hit the same areas in recent weeks. Every Mass and prayer will be offered for the dead and comfort for their families. Finally, all parishes are invited to promote fundraising for emergency response and reconstruction.

In August, two people died and thousands were left homeless in the north of the Philippines in the passage of the typhoon Utor , which hit the north of the country . Church and Catholic organizations immediately set to work to bring relief to the people , in a nation hit by at least 20 typhoons each year ( Utor was the 13th ) . Moreover typhoons , tropical storms , hurricanes are very frequent during the summer season in many parts of east and south- east Asia, where the warm, moist air, combined with the low pressure creates the ideal conditions for the formation of these atmospheric phenomena. In 2001 , the passage of Typhoon Washi in the Philippines caused 1,200 deaths and 300,000 displaced , and destroyed over 10,000 homes.

 

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