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From the US to the Philippines: Anglicans respond to severe weather crises

Posted on: September 18, 2018 4:03 PM
Typhoon Mangkhut over the Philippines
Photo Credit: Lauren Dauphin / NASA Earth Observatory

Officials in the Philippines said today (Tuesday) that the death toll from Typhoon Mangkhut has risen to 74 – but they warn that the final figure could be much higher. While in the US, authorities say that 31 people have died as a result of Hurricane Florence. In addition to the deaths, some five million people are said to have been displaced in central Philippines; while in Hong Kong and South China, where four people were killed in Guangdong province, some 2.4 million people were evacuated.

Rescuers are continuing to dig by hand to release some 40 people trapped by a landslide in Itogon in the Philippines. The local mayor, Victorio Palangdan, was quoted by the AFP news agency saying that there was a 99 per cent chance that all those trapped are dead; but he continued: “there is still that one per cent chance. The rescue effort will continue until the president orders us to stop.”

“All over Northern Luzon, communities have been severely damaged by the typhoon,” Attorney Floyd Lalwet, the National Development Officer for the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP), said. “Houses and other structures were destroyed and our communities are now doing communal actions to repair and / or rebuild the habitations.

“Farmlands have borne the brunt of the strong wind and rains and crops that are due for harvest at the last quarter are almost completely wiped out.”

Among the dead are four members of a family who were members of St Timothy’s Church in Bontoc, Mountain Province. They were killed in a landslide. Two children from the family survived and are being treated in hospital. The ECP has asked for prayers for the children’s recovery and for their family members who were lost.

“Please also pray for the communities in Hong Kong and Southern China as Typhoon Ompong [an alternate name for Mangkhut] makes landfall and brings further destruction there,” the Anglican Alliance, which helps co-ordinate action and responses by Anglican agencies around the world, said. “Please also continue to hold in prayer the many people of the United States in the path of Cyclone Florence and facing devastating flooding.”

The Anglican Alliance has been in close contact with the ECP and the Anglican Board of Mission (ABM), the aid agency of the Anglican Church of Australia, in the past few days; and will co-ordinate a global conference call with other agencies once the extent of the needs are known. In the meantime, the ABM has responded to an immediate request for assistance from the ECP and has launched an emergency appeal in Australia to raise $100,000 AUD (approximately £55,000 GBP).

The ECP has a substantial presence in the region, with four out of its seven dioceses spread across the affected area. This includes 300 parishes and 100 other communities that the Church has engagement with, all of which have been damaged in varying degrees by the typhoon.

Much of the area is rural with rice and corn crops almost ready to be harvested, but now destroyed, leaving thousands of people without livelihoods and homes. A rice shortage already experienced prior to the typhoon is now expected to severely affect many more people in the weeks to come.

In Hong Kong, the country’s Anglican-run schools were closed on Monday and Tuesday, alongside all other schools in the Special Administrative Region, for two days of cleaning and maintenance. Schools in the Region are expected to re-open on Wednesday; with dispensation for pupils who can’t reach their schools because of transport difficulties.

In the US, dioceses, congregations and Episcopalians in the Carolinas on the east coast are still feeling the impact of Hurricane Florence as they deal with power outages, downed trees, flooded neighbourhoods and impassable roads. The bishops of the five Episcopal dioceses in North and South Carolina issued a joint statement on Saturday (15 September) pledging their support for those affected by the storm and asking for Episcopalians everywhere to help by giving to Episcopal Relief & Development.

“We are assessing the damage to our communities, which as you will know from news reports, varies widely,” the bishops say. “Conditions will continue to change for days due to rising rivers. We are blessed by your prayers and assurances of support and give thanks to God for you. As the Body of Christ, you give us tremendous strength and encouragement.”

Each Episcopal diocese has been in regular contact with Episcopal Relief & Development while coordinating pastoral response with clergy members. The storm forced many congregations to cancel Sunday services and lists of closures are being updated day to day.

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, which encompasses the coastal half of the state, reported that at least 15 of its congregations had cancelled services. Bishop Skip Adams postponed a visit to St Alban’s Episcopal Church in Kingstree “due to the likelihood that the road near the church may not be passable on Sunday.”