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Wave of Destruction Hits Asia-Pacific Region

Catholic Relief Services has mounted a multi-pronged relief effort in response to a succession of disasters that have pummeled the Asia-Pacific region this week.

Following quickly on the heels of the devastating Typhoon Ketsana that struck the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia, causing hundreds of deaths and displacing thousands of families, a tsunami triggered by an earthquake swept over villages in Samoa. And then a strong earthquake killed dozens and injured hundreds, and caused significant damage to the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

CRS has committed an initial $1 million to our regional relief effort.

"We have mobilized, and with our Caritas Catholic church partners, we are providing emergency assistance to the families affected by these disasters," says CRS President Ken Hackett. "These are our brothers and sisters who are in dire need. Our prayers are with them and we will do all we can to help.

Residents transport their motorcycle and pedicab using a canoe.

Residents transport their motorcycle and pedicab using a canoe in floodwaters brought on by typhoon Ketsana, locally known as Ondoy, in Sta Rosa Laguna south of Manila. Photo by REUTERS/Egay Montana/Handout/Office of the Vice-President courtesy of

"The emergency phase of these disasters will pass quickly," he says. "But the recovery phase will go on for many months."

CRS is assisting victims of Ketsana who fled their homes following massive flooding caused by the storm as it swept across the main island of Luzon, claiming the lives of approximately 250 people. CRS, with our partner Caritas Philippines, is providing thousands of families with immediate food aid—rice, canned goods, noodles and vegetable oil— as well as emergency supplies such as blankets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, soap and more.

CRS Country Representative Luc Picard says heavy rains from the storm, which is known in the Philippines as Typhoon Ondoy, have destroyed houses and infrastructure, and left behind tons of mud and debris.

"The mud is horrible. People's houses were completely submerged, and now they've basically lost everything," he says. "In some towns, they're using front end loaders to clean the mud off the streets. Figuring out what to do with all that mud will be a challenge."

Meanwhile, a new storm is heading for the Philippines, with landfall expected later this week.

CRS is also responding in Vietnam, where Typhoon Ketsana hit Tuesday, killing dozens of people and flooding towns and villages along the nation's coastline. CRS acted immediately, providing lifejackets to children in the most heavily-flooded areas, followed by visits to heavily-damaged towns and villages to determine what the most pressing needs are.

"We'll now work with our partners to look closely at what the needs are in the towns and villages hardest-hit by flooding and strong winds," says Andrew Wells-Dang, CRS country manager in Vietnam. "Fortunately, the typhoon hit a few weeks after the rice harvest, so crops are in pretty good shape. But many people have lost the roofs off their houses, or their entire houses in some cases."

In Samoa, an earthquake that struck Tuesday triggered a tsunami that killed more than 100 people and flattened villages in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga. CRS is working with Caritas Australia to assist our Catholic church partner Caritas Samoa, a social service agency that was founded in 2008.

Coincidently, a tsunami simulation exercise was held just last week during a regional Caritas meeting in Samoa. Little did participants know that a few days later, they would be called upon to put the theory into practice.

Finally, CRS is also responding with our Caritas partner to an earthquake that struck near Padang, the capital city of West Sumatra in Indonesia that is home to more than 800,000 people. According to early reports, scores were killed and thousands of people remained trapped under rubble.

How to Help:

Donate via phone: 1-877-HELP-CRS

Donate online:

Write a check:Catholic Relief Services
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, Maryland 21203-7090
Please note Southeast Asia&Pacific Rim Emergency Fund on the memo line of your check.

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