Earthquake in the Philippines : more than 150 dead, Caritas in the forefront of relief efforts
Estimated 300 wounded, while dozens missing . Nassa Executive Secretary tells AsiaNews: "immediate needs are food items in for people in evacuation centers. Serious damage to churches and places of worship , including the century-old minor basilica in Cebu . Catholic activists to help victims, funds from the archdiocese of Manila.

Manila ( AsiaNews) - " We have launched an appeal for assistance [ to the victims ] among our Caritas partners , but it must be done immediately. Among immediate needs are food items in for people in evacuation centers " . This is what Fr . Edwin A. Gariguez , the National Secretariat for Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines ( CBCP - Nassa ), in the forefront of the relief to the earthquake victims tells AsiaNews. On 15 October, a powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.2 hit the center of the Philippine archipelago , killing 144 people so far , unofficial estimates speak more than 158 dead and , even today, many are still missing. Experts from the U.S. Geological Survey explained that the earthquake struck below the island of Bohol (Central Visayas ) , a region populated and one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country. It has released energy equal to " 32 atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima" and was also felt in Mindanao .

Fr. Edwin , Nassa executive secretary and responsible for the coordination of relief operations at the Catholic institution , sent a first report to AsiaNews, from which the full extent the severity of the damage caused by the earthquake can be seen. In addition to the main quake, within hours there were 725 aftershocks in Cebu , Negros Orental , Davao , Cotabato and north of Mindanao. Meanwhile, the governorship of Bohol has declared a state of calamity.

To date, 23 are still missing, while the number of injured is around 300. The people affected by the earthquake are more than three million , spread among 39 cities and municipalities . 5,992 families are housed in 51 refugee centers , and a first estimate of damage to infrastructure , hospitals , houses and sites of archaeological interest amount to a total of 75.2 million pesos ( 1.8 million dollars).

Among the sites most affected the centuries-old Catholic churches in the region , testimony of the Spanish colonial past and of great historical and architectural value . There are at least ten places of worship that have suffered serious damage in Cebu and Bohol, dating from the sixteenth century. These include the bell tower of limestone of the oldest church in the Philippines, the Minor Basilica of the Holy Child of Cebu.

In many areas there are power outages and the supply of drinking water has been suspended, particularly in Bohol . Food supplies are dwindling and many markets are closed for lack of products. The Caritas workers also warn of the urgent need for psychologists and experts in trauma, to heal the wounds (even psychological ) inflicted by the earthquake on the population. The government has allocated the army and police to help in the rescue operations and the immediate action pending long-term programs for the restoration of normal activities. To date, Manila has not yet appealed to the international community for foreign aid , wanting to deal with the disaster on its own .

Nassa- Caritas Philippines are coordinating the emergency response in collaboration with the leaders of the two dioceses most affected by the earthquake, Talibon and Bohol . So far they have used local funds where available, but they are no longer sufficient . For this Nassa has already allocated 400 thousand pesos , while various dioceses in the country - including the Archdiocese of Manila - are ready to intervene with a contribution to the relief assistance. ( DS )