Church, LGUs appeal: Help-A A +A
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
CEBU Archbishop Jose Palma appealed to the faithful to extend any kind of help to the families who suffered as a result of flash floods unleashed by Sendong.
Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said the Province will immediately send basic needs, like bottled water and canned goods. She thanked businessman Bob Gothong for offering to ship relief goods to the afflicted areas, for free.
Cash assistance from the Province will follow, as soon as the Provincial Social Welfare Office determines how much to send.
The Cebu City Government vowed to give at least P5 million as financial assistance to the flood victims of Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City and Negros Oriental.
With the death toll now estimated at 632 to 652, Sendong has been compared with typhoon Ondoy in 2009, which dumped huge amounts of rain on Metro Manila and killed more than 460 people.
Mayor Michael Rama announced the City’s assistance yesterday after he was assured by City Budget Officer Nelfa Briones that the City still has available funds. The aid will be charged to an P11-million unused portion of the City’s calamity funds.
“Aware that the numbers of the missing and the dead are increasing, the City will be helping Cagayan de Oro and Iligan and other areas hit by the storm,” Rama said.
Local officials in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities prepared for mass burials of flood victims, saying the unclaimed bodies piling up in mortuaries were posing health risks.
Entire families were swept to sea as they slept in coastal slums in these two cities, when Sendong unleashed flash floods around 2:30 a.m. last Saturday.
The Philippine Red Cross set the death toll from the flash floods at 652, while the national disaster council put the figure at 632.
The estimates of missing persons varied widely as the identities of victims were being verified; the Red Cross said more than 900 persons were still unaccounted for, but the official disaster council lowered its count of the missing to 82.
President Benigno Aquino III is set to visit the disaster zone today, after ordering a review of the country’s disaster defenses.
Benito Ramos, the government’s disaster agency chief, said most of the victims were “informal settlers”—a term used for slum squatters who are often unregistered by authorities.
Mayor Rama said he will write the City Council to request them for a special session so the cash assistance will be immediately approved and released.
Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young has already committed that the legislative body is willing to conduct a special session to speed up the release of aid.
Rama said the City will also send this week its mobile morgue, through Sulpicio Lines Inc., to help the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan process the hundreds of bodies.
City Hall had received the mobile morgue from the International Police (Interpol) in 2008, for processing the bodies of those who drowned when the MV Princess of the Stars sank off Romblon during a typhoon.
Rama said he learned from Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Emano and Iligan City Vice Mayor Henry Dy and that the funeral parlors in both cities can no longer accommodate the bodies.
“Sa ila pang termino, ga-patong patong na ang mga patay (There are just too many fatalities),” he said.
How to help
Rama will also be sending Alvin Santillana, executive director of Cebu City’s Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to Cagayan de Oro, with some people from the Office of the Civil Defense, to assess the situation.
In Cebu City, the Junior Chamber International is opening an account at China Bank for cash donations. Its account name is JCI-Abag Cagayan Iligan.
All branches of the McDonald’s fastfood chain in Cebu City are also receiving donations like clothes and food.
Cebuano artists plan to hold a fund-raising concert on Dec. 30 for the flood victims in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.
With thousands suffering in the aftermath of tropical storm Sendong, the Police Regional Office (PRO) in Central Visayas decided not to hold its annual Christmas party and will instead donate the funds intended for the gathering.
“We cannot, in conscience, celebrate and hold a party, while thousands of our countrymen are suffering,” PRO 7 Director Marcelo Garbo said in a press statement.
The party was supposed to be held today inside the regional police headquarters.
Instead, the funds for the party will be used to buy basic goods and food items.
Raffle prizes such as sacks of rice, umbrellas and other goods will also be donated.
Today, Police Chief Supt. Garbo will visit Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, the hardest-hit area in Central Visayas, to assess the damage, aside from bringing donations.
“This is our way of celebrating Christmas by being one with our fellow Filipinos who have suffered the loss of lives and properties, and sharing with them what we have,” Garbo said.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Palma appealed for a second collection in parishes under the archdiocese, which will be sent to the areas devastated by Sendong.
“We have decided to send cash, clothing and food stuffs,” he said.
Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal also offered prayers for the victims and their families. Over ABS-CBN TV Patrol, Cardinal Vidal read the prayer for the victims of calamities, taken from the sacramentary or book of prayers.
Archbishop Palma is currently on Bantayan Island, where he is leading the Misa de Gallo from Dec. 18 to 23 in various parishes.
In an interview, he said he decided to visit the remote island as part of efforts to reach out to all the Cebuano faithful. During his stay, any donations that he would receive would be remitted to the respective parishes and used for their church renovation activities.
Instead of joyful Christmas preparations, communities in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan prepared to bury hundreds of their dead.
“Today we will dig a mass grave and bury the unclaimed bodies, as well as those in an advanced state of decomposition,” Iligan’s Mayor Lawrence Cruz said on national television.
The disaster council said at least 227 people died in Iligan.
Television footage from an Iligan mortuary showed a corridor lined with bodies awaiting burial, wrapped in white plastic bags bound tightly with packaging tape.
Teresita Badiang, an engineer at the Iligan mayor’s office, said the City was building two large concrete tombs where cadavers would be placed side by side “so that their burial will be dignified.”
In Cagayan de Oro, where the disaster council placed the death toll at 336, Mayor Vicente Emano said a mass burial would be held within the week.
Health officials are taking DNA samples and photographs of victims, for possible identification later.
At least 47,000 evacuees are now huddled in evacuation centers in Sendong’s wake.
Rescue and relief efforts were being spearheaded by government troops normally assigned to fight rebels elsewhere on Mindanao.
Philippine Red Cross chief Gwendolyn Pang said strict guidelines had to be followed in mass burials, including photographing corpses, listing identifying marks and laying them a meter apart for possible exhumation.
“I’m sure their families will look for them,” she said. (AFP)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 20, 2011.