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11 November 2013

Churches helping in Typhoon Haiyan clean-up

Churches helping in Typhoon Haiyan clean-up

by Mandy Pilz

Churches are engaging in the clean-up following Typhoon Haiyan in which thousands of people have lost their lives, according to Alliance member Tearfund.

On Friday the typhoon flattened Tacloban, a city in Leyte Province in the Philippines. Around 10.000 people are thought to have died in Leyte Province alone, with the toll expected to rise.

Tearfund partners, including local churches, have helped people to evacuate their homes and villages in time to avoid the worst of the typhoon, which is one of the biggest in recorded history. However, despite the best efforts of emergency services and humanitarian agencies, many thousands of lives have been lost and homes have been washed away.

"We keep hearing more and more bad news as the death toll figures increase," says Matthew Frost, Tearfund's chief executive.

"It has been difficult to confirm all the details because of power cuts and difficulties in reaching our colleagues but we know that landslides, flooding and high winds have wiped out homes, businesses and farms.

"Our partners are in the evacuation centres, giving care to survivors who need food, water, shelter and help to find their loved ones."

Rescue operations and food distributions have started to reach people but there are still areas of the islands where people have not yet been traced.

Pastors, church workers and volunteers are travelling by motorbike to some of the more remote areas over the next few days to find survivors and offer help. Despite difficult conditions, they will travel long distances for three days at a time to reach villages where they expect to find high death counts and many grieving people.

Tearfund calls for prayer for the survivors, who will need assistance for many months to come.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has expressed his shock at the disaster.

"Our prayers are with all who have lost loved ones and all those who are traumatised by the disaster and in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medical attention," he said. "We pray for those who are most vulnerable in this crisis: children separated from their parents, the sick and injured, the disabled and the elderly."

As other natural disasters like the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 have shown, it can take years for people to rebuild their lives and the needs are not just practical ones.

Frost says: "We know that there will be a lot of grief as people come to terms with bereavement. We must pray for the thousands of people who are grieving and ask God how he wants each of us to respond to their needs.

"Please also pray for the churches who are sending teams out, many of whom will travel long distances by motorbike, that their teams would stay safe and well on their travels and that they would be able to bring hope to the people they meet."

To give to Tearfund and help people in the Philippines rebuild their lives, go to www.tearfund.org/philippines