Catholic Relief Services teams are assessing the damage done to the Philippines by a powerful typhoon that struck October 18. The super typhoon, called Juan in the Philippines and Megi abroad, hit the northeast section of the large island of Luzon, destroying crops and sending thousands of people to evacuation centers.
Information is starting to trickle in from areas of the north, although some cell phone networks are still down. CRS has been in contact with staff and priests in the areas of Benguet, Baguio City, Isabela, and Ifugao. Isabela, in the northeast, was the hardest hit by winds, with reports of damaged houses and infrastructure.
Arnaldo Arcadio, emergency program manager for CRS in the Philippines, visited evacuation centers in Baguio City and Benguet. "Most of the centers are schools, so families are sleeping on mats inside the classrooms," he says. "In one school, there were 116 families—in many of its classrooms there were 10 families each. It was very cramped."
"It was raining hard on Tuesday, so they stayed in the centers again on Tuesday night," he continues.
In Ifugao, in the mountainous Cordillera region, Father Val Dimoc says that winds have hurt farmers' crops. "The rice plants were blown down by strong winds," he says. "The farmers may not have any more harvest." Corn and banana crops have also been affected, he says. The heavy rainfall may lead to landslides—a key concern in hilly areas, where they claim lives and wipe out fields.
CRS staff and its local diocesan partners are focusing on areas where the government may not be able to respond. The Catholic Church has many active social action centers in the region that are mobilizing aid.
"Our staff and partners are getting better road access and are more able to see the extent of the damage," says Joe Curry, country representative for CRS in the Philippines. "We're working hard to put the information together and help respond to immediate needs."