Five Baptist World Alliance (BWA) member organizations in the Philippines reported on the widespread devastation in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan that devastated parts of the southeast Asian country on Nov. 8.
The five organizations have a total membership of about 430,000 Baptists. Among the urgent needs are food, water, medicine and construction materials for housing.

Some 2,000 families, including Baptists, have lost their homes, said Ildefonso Alfafara, general secretary of the Baptist Conference of the Philippines, with offices in Mandaue City in the province of Cebu.

Approximately 80 percent of homes in the province were badly damaged or destroyed. Several Baptist churches were also destroyed.

Communication was difficult as phone lines were down and travel by road, ferry or air to affected areas was not possible, said Judson Herbilla, general secretary of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, with its base in Iloilo, a highly urbanized city in Panay Island.

Herbilla estimated 2,000 families needed immediate help. He said many churches were affected by the typhoon.

Communication channels and systems were down, and many of those affected live in hard-to-reach areas, reported Pastoral R.V. Gernal, executive secretary of the Convention of Visayas and Mindanao of Southern Baptist Churches, with offices in Davao City in Mindanao, the second largest and southernmost island in the Philippines.

Baptists were helping to minister to those who were affected, including those in the hospital.

Tacloban, a city in Mindanao, was one of the hardest hit areas, according to Jeremias Muring, president of the General Baptist Churches of the Philippines, also headquartered in Davao City.

While aid is reaching those in the city, Muring said those living in the outlying areas and other cities are not getting any assistance.

Communication is still difficult and the Internet is slow. Volunteers are being trained to provide assistance. At least one Baptist church in Tacloban was destroyed.

Gerlie Baltero of the Luzon Convention of Southern Baptist Churches reported widespread devastation in the affected areas.

He said hard-hit provinces and cities included Leyte, Iloilo, Cebu, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Davao Oriental, Tacloban, Surigao del Norte and Palawan.

Carroll Baltimore, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention in the United States, was in the Philippines at the time when Typhoon Haiyan landed.

“The destruction of the super typhoon has exceeded all predictions and expectations,” Baltimore wrote. “In the province of Capiz, 90 percent of the population [was affected] and buildings were destroyed. At least 15 of its area cities are wiped off the map and nothing exists.”

The Philippines have experienced a series of natural disasters in recent months.

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake occurred on Oct. 15 in Bohol, an island province located in Mindanao.

Since September, a total of seven typhoons have affected the Asian archipelago, with three, including Haiyan, in November alone.

“I could see that repeated earthquakes and typhoons had taken its toll on the people,” Baltimore said.

He reported that many lived “in tents and had to evacuate at least four times in the past month due to repeated disasters.”

This news release first appeared at the Baptist World Alliance news page.

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