Typhoon Yolanda brings unparallelled devastation to Philippines
Cash aid is desperately needed.
Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda has hit the Philippines so hard that even experienced aid workers are having great difficulty dealing with the situation. Despite being four days following the storm, aid still hasn't reached many of the people who desperately need it. Agencies are requesting money over food and supplies because of the unique situation there.
Weather officials are not known for their use of hyperbole, so witnessing it firsthand was stunning. At 500 miles wide, the storm is among the largest ever recorded. By comparison, Hurricane Katrina, which caused so much damage in the United States, was only 200 miles wide.
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Although still unconfirmed, Typhoon Yolanda is probably the single-most powerful storm to ever make landfall. A few other storms have higher recorded sustained winds, but none have made landfall.
The lack of mass-transportation infrastructure in the Philippines meant that even with several days warning, it was impossible to move millions out of harm's way. Soon-to-be-victims were left to "shelter in place"-a technical term that means help is not coming, at least for awhile.
When the storm made violent landfall at Guinan, in Eastern Samar, it began an unparalleled destruction of the Philippines. Survivors are telling reporters that in addition to wind and flying debris, which cost many lives, the water was perhaps the most dangerous element.
Water came from everywhere. Observers along the coast reported waves at 50 feet in height, although it is likely they were a more modest 20 feet on average. Still, waves between two and five stories in height are devastating for any coastline. Rain was intense and it quickly caused flooding. Residents found that shelter, even in traditional safe spots, was inadequate because of extreme flooding.
Water came not just from above, but from all directions. Water flowed down mountains and collected in low-lying areas. Basements, which keep people safe from the extreme winds, flooded with water, forcing residents to flee. Many had to make a gut-wrenching choice between being drowned and being battered with debris. Not everyone survived this dilemma.
Official death-toll estimates are reporting over 1,800 confirmed casualties, with over 10,000 suspected. We think the number may be much higher. Those are merely the casualties from the storm itself.
Almost as devastating is the aftermath. With hundreds of miles of devastation, ranging across several islands, government officials and aid workers have found it nearly impossible to reach the most remote areas. Some reporters and individuals have had success by travelling light, but they risk becoming dependent on aid themselves, aid that may not arrive for several more days.
Unlike earthquakes, a frequent bane of the islands, the storm's destruction is much more widespread creating many more victims and uprooting a lot more infrastructure.
Looting has been reported as angry and desperate locals take matters into their own hands.
Aid agencies are scrambling to the area including the United States Navy, which is sending an aircraft carrier (USS George Washington) and relief supplies to the region. The Catholic Church is also working to respond to the crisis by collecting whatever it can. The Catholic Church already has aid infrastructure and personnel in place, including clergy, however these people are also victims.
At this time, aid workers in the area are asking for cash donations as opposed to specific forms of aid such as food and clothing. They have explained the cash donations allow them to apply the aid as needed to the uniquely diverse problems they are encountering. Unlike other disasters with local impacts, just getting to a place to establish headquarters and assess needs is a challenge many aid workers are still yet to overcome, even now, days after the event.
Pope Francis is asking for prayers in the wake of the disaster.
Catholic Online is collecting donations for Philippines aid via the Your Catholic Voice Foundation, which is a 503c organization. Your donations are tax deductible. If you wish to donate, a page has been set up in the new Catholic Online Boutique, a webpage that will soon serve your Catholic Shopping needs. However, all donations for the Philippines will be processed via Your Catholic Voice Foundation. Please give generously. "After the unspeakable we speak hope."
Catholic Online will continue to keep you informed of developments in the aftermath of this storm.
The size of Yolanda as compared to the United States.
Radar reveals the power of the storm. Yellow and red reveal the most powerful winds.
The storm as photographed from the International Space Station. Even astronauts were taken aback with its incredible size.
The storm as seen from a weather satellite.
The lucky were able to obtain transport to safety. Although 800,000 were evacuated, even these people became victims as extreme flooding overtook the sturdiest shelters.
Extreme winds made it obvious the storm would be a killer. In the first hours, observers took images near the shore. As higher waves crashed with greater violence, even experienced photographers fled.
The devastation is total. Hundreds, if not thousands of square miles look like this, making aid delivery a nightmare.
The city of Tacloban received the brunt of the storm's fury. In that city alone, 10,000 people are possibly dead.
Workers carry a body to a collection area for burial.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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