Over an eight-day span, from December 16-23, two tropical storms Kai-Tak (also known as Urduja) and Tembin (also known as Vinta) battered the Philippines and triggered deadly flooding and landslides in the central and northern parts of the country. Adventists in the region, and other parts of the Philippines, are assessing needs and responding with food, supplies and encouragement.
Although it never reached typhoon levels, tropical storm Kai-Tak (locally known as Urduja) devastated the central region of the Philippines. The slow-moving storm made landfall six times and dumped heavy amounts of rain over an extended period. The resulting floods and landslides damaged roads and bridges. 40 people have been reported dead and others are still missing. Power systems have been extensively damaged with local government officials citing the great need for assistance as food and supplies dwindle.
1.7 million people in more than 1,700 barangays (towns/villages) have been affected by the heavy rains and flooding. Another concern is it may take longer for residents to recover as parts of the region have not yet fully recovered from 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan. Typhoon Haiyan was a super-typhoon that leveled towns and left almost 7,350 people dead with its category 5 strength.
As Kai-Tak left the region, Tembin was building strength and swept into the southern Philippines on December 22. Tembin caused flash flooding and landslides which affected almost 270,000 people and caused more than 200 deaths. The overall extent of the damage cannot yet be fully assessed as residents in both areas are first dealing with immediate needs such as loss of or damage to their homes and livelihoods. As of December 29, the estimated joint damage in the agricultural sector alone has reached the equivalent of more than 24.8 million dollars.
In response, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Philippines has partnered with volunteers from the East Visayan Conference in the Philippines and Adventist Community Services to meet needs in Biliran, the hardest hit town in the northern region. Biliran was chosen due to the devastation and their great need. “Thousands [in the area] were forced to evacuate including those affected by super typhoon Yolanda four years ago,” said Vincent Matias, ADRA Philippines Communication, Advocacy and PR Officer. “Approximately 500 affected families received food packs containing one-week’s worth of food such as rice and canned goods.”
ADRA Philippines is also planning their response to the needs in southern Philippines, “ADRA Philippines is still assessing and going through the process of whether we can do a follow-up response or potentially do a long-term development project in the future,” explains Matias.
Regardless of the type of potential project, Matias feels the role of Adventist volunteers in meeting immediate and post needs is vital. “ADRA responses wouldn’t be successful without the help of the local ACS volunteers. The ADRA response team is privileged to work alongside brothers and sisters who were willing to sacrifice their holiday vacation so they could help those in need,” said Matias.
These and other Adventists in the Philippines are committed to working together as a source of immediate and long-term help for those in need such as a farmer in Biliran the group met. After receiving a food pack, the farmer commented, “The typhoon ruined all our crops and we don’t know where we can get food. This will be a big help for me and my children.”
Helping those in need, choosing to relieve suffering, working with others to share Jesus in practical ways – Adventists in the Philippines are using these methods to respond to disasters such as tropical storms like Kai-Tak and Tembin.