12/04/2004, 00.00
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Christian solidarity in typhoon-hit Philippines

Caritas is coordinating dioceses and parishes in providing victim relief. People are donating money and praying for the dead and rescuers.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The Philippines is mobilising to bring help to the victims of the four typhoons that in a week caused a thousand dead and missing. Mgr Gaudencio B. Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, yesterday sent a message to all dioceses asking them to encourage their faithful to join in prayer and be close to their compatriots affected by the tragedy.

Fr Giovanni Re, PIME missioner in Parañaque, near Manila, told AsiaNews that all the parishes in the capital—just brushed by the Thursday night typhoon—are collecting supplies to send to the disaster areas.

"People are participating in the collection and feel close to the victims", Father Re said. "At mass, many ask that prayers be said for the dead, the displaced, the rescuers and that good weather might soon come back. Local media are encouraging people through a mass solidarity campaign."

Caritas Philippines is coordinating collection and rescue operations in the provinces of Luzon Islands. Caritas Manila director, Fr Anton Pascual said that his Social Action Office began sending out relief goods—clothes, rice, noodles and sardines—to some 5,000 families two days ago. It also fielded five vehicles for relief and medicine delivery.

Caritas Internationalis yesterday launched a US$ 200,000 appeal to provide emergency relief.

Elvie Manalansan, who is in charge of disaster and rescue management for NASSA (National Secretariat for Social Action of the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines), told AsiaNews that dioceses and parishes in the affected areas have made their facilities available to the victims and are providing them with temporary shelters.

"For now," Ms Manalansan said, "food and drinking water are the primary necessities. We are distributing rice and other food, but soon we'll need medicines" because as "people gather at evacuation centres, sanitary conditions get worse. So much so that at times it is difficult just to breathe. Under these conditions, contagion is easy."

Most affected people need money to rebuild their homes after the typhoon swept them away. Fortunately, Ms Manalansan added, "Filipinos are very generous and are sending money from the all over the country".

Solidarity with the Philippines is also becoming international. The US said it will donate US$ 100,000 to the Philippine National Red Cross and the EU has pledged economic aid. (MA)

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