Disaster trauma deepens in Asia Rim; Manila flooding poses relief challenge


SINGAPORE — Traumatized residents of the Philippines and Indonesia face more difficulty as another strong earthquake rocked Sumatra and a new — even stronger — typhoon is bearing down on the Philippines.

"The area continues to be hit by disasters," said Pam Wolf, who works with her husband Ben in leading Baptist Global Response work in the Asia Rim. "Please pray for all that is going on in this area of the world. Disaster teams are being formed and moving into these areas."

Indonesia rocked by second earthquake
A second earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, rocked western Indonesia Oct. 1 even as rescue teams tried to reach survivors of the previous day's quake. More than 500 people died in that tremor and thousands remain trapped under collapsed buildings.

An Indonesian ministry, called Rebana, is partnering with Baptist Global Response to address relief needs, according to Jim Brown, U.S. director for BCG.

"Rebana got a lot of training and experience in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and our field partners have a great deal of confidence in their ability to respond to this crisis," Brown said. "Our partners tell us the situation is fluid and needs may change, but right now it looks like no U.S. volunteers are going to be needed for Indonesia."

Reports from the field indicate relief efforts initially are focusing on basic food and water and volunteer teams already headed to Indonesia have agreed to help with response, Brown said.

Philippines posing relief challenge
Less than a week after Typhoon Ketsana flooded 80 percent of the Philippines' capital, Manila, another storm bearing down on the island nation was upgraded to the status of "super typhoon.

Typhoon Parma will dump more heavy rainfall and inflict major property damage on Oct. 3, meteorologists predict. The storm's winds have been measured at 150 mph and the Philippines' military and civilian emergency response teams have been placed on alert. The government ordered troops to evacuate coastal and low-lying areas, as well as landslide-prone areas, and instructed civilian agencies to stockpile food, water, medicine, fuel and other relief supplies, news services are reporting.

Tropical Storm Ketsana
When Tropical Storm Ketsana blew through Manila, Sept. 26, it dumped more rain in six hours than the Philippines' capital normally receives the entire month of September, resulting in what has been called the worst flood in 40 years.

"The impact of this typhoon on Manila has been shocking," said Elnora Avarientos, World Vision's national director in the Philippines. "Many have lost everything, including bedding, food, education materials, and clothing. The poorest living in slums and settlements are especially badly hit."

In any city, such rainfall would lead to flooding. For a crowded city that sits below sea level with an underdeveloped sewage system, the results proved disastrous. By late Saturday afternoon, the government reported 80 percent of Manila was under water.

More than 246 people lost their lives and 38 are still missing, according to the country's National Disaster Coordinating Council. Hundreds of thousands are displaced. Missionaries living in Manila expect the death toll to climb higher.

"Just in my area of town alone," said Jill Harvell, a missionary living in Quezon City, "I can think of 22 people who have died as a result of this storm.

"People have been stranded on their rooftops for three days without food and water. Cars were floating down the streets. I've never seen anything like it."

It is the worst flood that Shirley Seale, who has served in the Philippines since 1987, can recall.

"We've been assessing the needs in areas around Manila. One of our national pastors estimates that in one area alone, more than 100 are either dead or missing," she said.

Many of the missionaries found themselves stranded at various locations around Manila when the rain came. However, as roads became passable, their thoughts immediately turned to the enormous needs around them.

By Sunday, Harvell — whose husband Greg was stranded in nearby Quezon province — already had submitted a request for funds from Baptist Global Response to help with relief efforts. By Monday, initial funds had been approved and released.

"When I arrived home Monday night, Jill had already organized Filipinos from our house church and the community," Greg Harvell said. "They were all there packing bags of relief items to give away."

Jill, together with her children and the national believers, packed 400 bags with rice, powdered milk, canned meat and coffee to distribute to those in the immediate areas affected by the flood.

Seventeen-year-old Josh Fern, whose parents, Dwight and Gloria Fern, were stranded at a school across town, opened their home to about 15 people affected by the storm, including one teenage girl who developed appendicitis.

"The girl's parents also were stranded in another part of the city. Thankfully, though, there was a nurse in the group who helped care for her," Gloria Fern said.

Getting the young woman to the hospital involved a number of vehicles, including a rubber raft.

Gloria was not surprised that her son opened their home to those in need. "Missionaries all over the city were opening their homes," she said. "I had just finished major grocery shopping the day before, so we had plenty of food and supplies to share with others."

After the Ferns arrived home, they began to think of other ways to help their community. Armed with shovels and rakes, the small group in their home headed out to assist with cleanup efforts in some of the more heavily damaged areas.

Long-term relief and cleanup will take months. More immediate needs involve rescue, temporary shelter and food and water,

"Typically, our goal in a disaster situation is to meet immediate needs first," said Philip Monroe from the Asian Disaster Foundation, an organization that works with Baptist Global Response.

"Meeting short-term needs can take from two weeks to two months," Monroe said. "Then once those needs are met, workers seek to identify a smaller segment of the population and develop a holistic and strategic approach to meeting their needs."

In the Philippines, Monroe continued, this longer-term strategy will include involvement of national believers in relief and cleanup efforts as they seek opportunities to share the Gospel.

But for now, the challenge remains to meet immediate needs as quickly and efficiently as possible. With major food warehouses under water and grocery shelves nearly empty, it is difficult.

"This is the worst I've ever seen it," Greg Harvell said. "The flooding ... has affected everybody in the city."

The storm, which brought the heaviest rainfall in 40 years to the Philippines, forced the evacuation of 567,000 and affected 2 million people altogether.

Ketsana also killed at least 74 people in Vietnam and nine in Cambodia, according to news reports.

World Vision, currently seeking $2 million in funding for relief efforts, is working with the Philippine Coast Guard to distribute aid as quickly as possible, dispatching relief by helicopter to some of the hard-to-reach areas.

World Vision Flood relief fund
Baptist Global Response

Complied with press release, BP and a report by Tess Rivers — BP

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