Residents walk past debris and an overturned jeepney in Tacloban City Photo by: RTE

Irish missionaries on front line in Philippines typhoon relief efforts


Residents walk past debris and an overturned jeepney in Tacloban City Photo by: RTE

Irish missionaries are playing a vital role in leading relief efforts in the typhoon-struck Philippines.

Missionaries on the ground in the devastated country have been instrumental not only in providing food and shelter, but also in communicating the scale of the disaster to the wider world.

According to latest estimates, as many as 11 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
The United Nations has put the latest death toll at 4,460.

But along with the worldwide response to the disaster, it's emerged that missionaries based in the Philippines have played a key part in relief efforts.

Sr. Ann Healy, a member of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary order and a native of Fethard, Co. Tipperary, told the Irish Catholic that her order were doing everything possible to help those affected.

She said huge numbers of people, desperate for food and other vital supplies, had approached their convent in the city of Cebu.

She said:  "Many, many people are still trying to get to safety.  Food is getting in but is in short supply.

"We are working to feed and clothe them."

Sr. Healy also paid tribute to Irish charity Trocaire, which she said has sent in much-needed supplies.

But she added: "There is still so much needed.  You can only cry when you see the faces of the children."

Speaking from the capital, Manila, Columban Fr. Patrick O'Donoghue said the situation in the worst-hit city, Tacloban, was "devastating".

The hugely-powerful storm caused such destruction that the local Redemptorist church and community are virtually the only habitable buildings, he said.

He said his order has helped shelter around 2,000 people, but warned that numbers were increasing.

He said:  "The big issue is getting the aid in.  Roads are blocked.  It is raining again and another, lesser, typhoon has gone through, bringing lots of rain."

Relief operations have been boosted by the arrival of a US aircraft carrier off the coast of the Philippines, which is helping co-ordinate international rescued efforts.

Meanwhile, parishes across Ireland are doing all they can to provide relief to the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Galway-based soup kitchen owner Ollie Williams said he is sending out a 40ft container - packed with food donated by Irish suppliers - to the country.

He said:  "We're very busy with the soup kitchens at the moment, feeding around 300 people a day.  But we couldn't ignore what's happened in The Philippines.  I've got hold of a 40ft container in Loughrea and we'll be able to get an awful lot of food in that and I'll be getting it out there as soon as I can.

"There's a hell of a lot of people out there who need food and I need to get this out there as quickly as possible.  I need a major charity to come onboard to help me transport it."

Two days ago an airlift of over 100 tonnes of aid from Ireland arrived in the ravaged country.


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