Communities in the southern Philippines are still assessing the devastation left in the wake of a storm that slammed into Mindanao Island over the weekend. Tropical Storm Washi, known locally as Sendong, triggered flooding and landslides that caused the deaths of at least 700 people—most of them children—in Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City, and the surrounding towns. Another 800 people are still reported missing on the island, and more than 35,000 people have been displaced. The extent of damage done to more remote villages is still unknown. Heavy rains left large areas without power, so communication, as well as travel, to those areas has been severely limited.
The deluge in the coastal cities began late Friday night after Washi had dumped as much as eight inches of rain in the area over several hours, four times the amount of rainfall expected for the entire month of December. The resulting flash floods swept homes into the sea while families were sleeping inside.
The Church of the Nazarene has a local church presence in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, the hardest-hit spots, as well as outreaches in surrounding areas. Local leaders in Iligan say that 12 Nazarene families are among those whose houses were destroyed. Additionally, one entire family related to the church has died, and another child and mother are still missing. The Cagayan de Oro City Church of the Nazarene sustained building damage from the flooding, but the pastor and his family are safe. They report that several Nazarene families in one of the congregations’s outreach points have lost their homes.
Iligan City Church of the Nazarene has two child development centers, one of which is supported by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. The children sponsored through NCM are accounted for, and their families are safe.
How Nazarenes Are Responding
The Iligan City Church of the Nazarene is serving as a temporary shelter for displaced Nazarene families and other families from the city and surrounding communities. The congregation has been able to distribute some food and clothing. The pastor and a small committee from the Iligan City church have been visiting other affected communities to help gather information for disaster assessments. The Cagayan de Oro City Church of the Nazarene is also serving as a shelter for displaced families in the community, and they have distributed some food and clothing to those in need. Local leaders report that more emergency relief is needed, in the form of food, clothing, water, and blankets.
Stephen Gualberto, field strategy coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene in the Philippines, flew to the affected areas early Monday to help in the assessment and coordination of disaster response efforts. The Philippines field office is preparing Crisis Care Kits to be shipped to Mindanao immediately, although their supplies are limited.
A four-person team has been dispatched to assist Nazarene churches in the Mindanao west district. The team is comprised of people from nearby districts who were trained through a disaster response workshop conducted by the field in April 2011. They will work alongside the Mindanao west district leadership to coordinate and monitor relief efforts, plan for rehabilitation programs, provide communications support, create strategic partnerships with other organizations, and train local leaders and community members for long-term response and disaster preparedness. Others who received disaster response training have been asked to prepare to be mobilized this week as their skills are needed.
Several local churches have started raising funds for the disaster response effort, and others plan to collect a special Christmas offering for the affected communities on Sunday, December 25.
Gualberto says that ongoing, comprehensive assessments will continue. The Church of the Nazarene in the Philippines is committed to supporting the local congregations in Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, and surrounding areas as they walk alongside families on the long road to recovery.
“Please pray for us, especially those that are affected,” Gualberto says.
How You Can Help
Pray for the devastated communities in southern Philippines, for those grieving their loved ones, and for children and families during the process of recovery and rebuilding.