Typhoon Relief Response in Philippines

AMURT & AMURTEL has relief teams in the area where deadly typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines over the weekend. More than 10,000 people are feared dead in a trail of utter devastation.

One of our team reached Bogo in North Cebu on Sunday and found total devastation and no other organizations active. They started a food distribution of both cooked and dry stock, and will continue throughout the week.

A second team reached the worst hit Tacloban and had to use chain saw to cut through trees blocking the roads in the city. They reported a tense security situation with people searching for food and water. From Cebu a third supply team is en route to Tacloban with food supplies under armed guards.

The task is great and the teams on the ground deserve our support. Donations can be made here:

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Report from the Field:

Dear friends,
I hope that you are healthy and secure in your own place.

Written Sunday: A few minutes ago I spoke with Savitri, who is just now traveling back from Bantayan Island with most of the AMWC staff. They went for initial survey and service.

They found destruction far beyond that of northern Cebu Province, which was really quite bad enough. From place to place the number of houses completely destroyed ranged from 75% to 90%. In some places house destruction was 100%

Bantayan Island has a population of about 150,000 people. 40,000 are in Madridejos where they went. On this first trip they brought with them food sufficient for only 2000 people. So in one of the places they stopped, the onslaught of people coming for food was so huge that they had to back out, knowing that when they could not feed them all, there could be a backlash. Instead they only gave food to a smaller but just as needy community. Other trips with greater amounts of food will surely follow.

Written Monday: In Tacloban, though the situation is so highly publicized, nevertheless the bureaucracy and other factors stymies the government networks, such that we continue to be one of the only sources of food there. Our team of volunteers continues their now systematized though limited relief work. Presently the team members number 15. Every day they are feeding only about 2500 people. As the need is obviously much more than that, so yesterday and today in Cebu we purchased 20 more stoves together with foodstuffs amounting to US$10,000 which will be shipped tonight, so that in Tacloban they can hopefully feed around 5000 people daily. We are also sending 400 liters of diesel so that our trucks there can be used to bring food to the most needy outlying areas, which until now have received nothing.

You may probably have heard news reports about the dangerous and violent people in Tacloban due to their desperation. Yes, they are desperate, but at least our experience is that they are not at all violent. Rather when we conduct feeding programs, 100% of the people are cooperative, as they fall into the four lines of children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens. And then just before each feeding program starts, we arrange for brief prayer to be led by the local barangay (town) leader. Immediately after that everyone literally cheers as the AMURT/EL food distribution begins. Imagine them as they cheer joyfully in unison, as if they have no care in the world. Such a noble people. It humbles all of our teams to serve them.

In Tacloban we continue to be the one and only source of cooked food and cooked rice. We give nothing but cooked food and drinking water. This is our policy because no matter how great a quantity we give the people, we know it will definitely make its way to hungry people’s stomachs, rather than enter into the growing black market of misappropriated relief goods to be sold at high prices.

Meanwhile, we have received a guarantee from the German children’s relief organization KNH , who presently have four representatives moving with us to survey and decide precisely where our joint long-term children’s projects will be established. One of those projects will be Children’s Friendly Spaces, i.e. informal kindergartens which enable the children to resume education in a safe and supportive environment, including a hot meal a day, and frees their parents for some time so they can work on getting their lives back together.


The following was sent to us from one of the AMURT/AMURTEL teams working in Cebu Province

It is now midnight Tuesday. Yesterday morning we sent a team to survey the damage in northern Cebu Province, where the Eye directly passed.

Yesterday evening we sent a team by specially charted ship to survey Tacloban. And this morning we sent another team to the already surveyed northern Cebu Province — this time with food for the survivor. The Tacloban team had a tough time even reaching there. To get there we partnered with the Federation of Volunteers through Radio Communication (FVRC), of which the Chief Officer is our close friend. The FVRC is one of the first to go to any catastrophe area, as other communication systems are usually down. The ship arrived in Hilongos, due to the danger of sailing directly into Tacloban, where at least 10,000 were already dead. From Hilongos the 140 kilometer trip was by 4-wheel drive jeeps, and it took many hours due to trees across the road. Along the way, the team cleared the road of fallen trees by means of power saws to make the route passable for others. They reported that from the half way mark until finally arriving in Tacloban — 99% of the houses and structures were demolished. Try to imagine that.

In the city they temporarily established a base in the damaged but still standing city hall, and from that time we began intensive communication with our team leader, Avaniish. Approximately in his words:

“The faces of the people look completely blank — like zombies. The damage is 10 times beyond the earthquake (where he had also worked for many days). Debris is piled everywhere, and the smell of death is unavoidable. All the government offices are wiped out, no where to turn for protection. The military only to be found at the airport. Here they are in the worst need for food.”

And so we have made a plan to purchase food tomorrow (Wednesday) for Tacloban, and are arranging military escort and a ship — hopefully by tomorrow itself. We will most likely send it with cooking equipment and serve it cooked, as people simply have no stoves to prepare uncooked materials we might give them.

It will be far from sufficient, but at least it is a start. As to the team that went this morning to northern Cebu Province: Our van had less than a 3 hour drive before encountering a scene hardly better than Tacloban. Again most of the houses leveled to the ground. Children and adults standing in the road begging for food and water. The only difference from Tacloban was that not so many had died because there had been no storm surge, so no drowning. But the hurricane winds had done their work with equal power, demolishing almost everything in sight. Tens of thousands of houses were destroyed.

Our contacts were in Bogo City, precisely where the Eye had passed. No government workers, no non-governmental workers had been there to help them. We were the first on the site, and the people were overwhelmed with happiness to see our volunteers. We brought cooking equipment, and a small amount of food, enough to serve 600 people. Upon receiving the food, many cried and embraced those serving. In fact it was painful not to be able to help others.

And so tomorrow we will purchase food for the north, and likewise serve it to them cooked.

More days of great need will follow. Our global and sectorial AMURT/EL staff are doing what they can to drum up support. We shall likewise do all we can to serve as many as we can according to the funds sent.

Later when the threats of starvation and disease are less pressing, we shall think about house rebuilding and other long-term works.