12/04/2014, 00.00
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With typhoon Ruby approaching, Filipino bishops entrust the country to the Lord

On Saturday, the Philippines should be hit by super typhoon 'Hagupit'. Bishops' Conference president calls on Catholic schools, churches and parishes to open their doors and prepare to accept refugees. He also urges the government "commence evacuation now [. . .] especially when faced with a danger so severe".

Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) - In anticipation of another natural disaster, Mgr Socrates Villegas, archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, has urged schools and churches to "open their doors to refugees" ahead of super typhoon Ruby to avoid being unprepared.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president also called on evacuees to "remember the sacred character of the churches they occupy" should they seek refuge in a church.

According to the weather office, super typhoon Ruby, officially called Hagupit, packed maximum sustained winds of 175 kph near the centre and gustiness of up to 210 kph and is expected to make landfall over Eastern Visayas, the same area hit by typhoon Yolanda, on Saturday morning or afternoon.

Villegas also sent a strong message to the government to "commence evacuation now."

"To wait any longer may be disastrous. There is no such thing as an excess of caution, especially when faced with a danger so severe," he said.

The prelate called on Filipinos, even those far from the direct path of super typhoon Ruby to pray for the safety of the entire country.

"Together with my brother-bishops, I commend the entire nation to the mercy, love and providence of our Father," Mgr Villegas said in concluding.

Haiyan/Yolanda hit the Visayas Islands on 8 November 2013, affecting some 11 million people, in 574 different cities and municipalities. The price tag for getting back to normal has been put at US$ 8 billion.

About 5,000 people are thought to have died with more than 1,700 people still missing. The government has tried to downplay the death toll saying that it stood at around 2,500.

A few weeks ago, the Filipino Church delivered the first permanent 1,600 housing units for displaced people. By the end of the year, it is expected to deliver at least 3,000 housing units in all nine ecclesiastical sees hit by the typhoon.

By contrast, the government has only completed 364 housing units in Tanauan and Tacloban (Leyte), but the number of displaced people still living in temporary shelters or bunkhouses in the provinces of Samar, Leyte and Eastern Samar tops 20,000.

During his upcoming apostolic journey to Sri Lanka and the Philippines (12-9 January 2015), Pope Francis will visit their areas devastated by the typhoon and share a meal with some of the survivors.

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