OVERSEAS AID: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Salesian missions to Philippines floods, Samoan tsunami
, October 17, 2009
The recent serious floods in the Philippines, the earthquake centred on Padan in Sumatra, and the Samoan tsunami have taken thousands of lives, and disrupted the lives of millions of poor people in neighbouring countries who live on the edge of survival.
|Part of American Samoa devastated by the tsunami|
Media reports have dealt with the large amounts of emergency aid which foreign governments have provided to rescue people injured in these natural disasters, and to provide emergency food, shelter and medical supplies for people caught up in the disasters.
However, the on-going recovery of communities depends on the rebuilding of lives shattered by natural disasters, a process which takes months, even years.
After the emergency response, missionaries who have a continuing presence within affected communities are often the only avenue through which long-term assistance can be effectively given to promote recovery of devastated areas.
The Salesians of Don Bosco, the second largest Catholic religious order in the world, run schools, medical clinics, education and training centres, and missions in over 120 countries throughout the world, including the Philippines and Samoa, where they are helping people affected by the floods and tsunami.Eyewitness account
The Samoan tsunami took around 200 lives of people living along the south coast of the islands of Samoa and American Samoa, and utterly devastated many of the coastal villages where many people depend on the sea for food. It also destroyed many tourist resorts, where Samoans work.
An Australian priest, Fr Nick Castelyns, was an eyewitness on the east coast of the island of Savai'i, when the tsunami struck.
He said: "My legs began to shake; I thought I was having a seizure. I then realised it was an earth tremor; we get plenty of them here.
"I stepped out in front of the house for security and thought I was feeling giddy as the ground under my feet was moving. Then I knew it was the longest and strongest earthquake I had ever experienced. …
"We sat down for Morning Prayer; before the end of the first psalm, the sirens began to wail. We realised it was a tsunami warning. Looking out over the sea, the waters inside the reef were broiling and then suddenly receding fast. While I have read about this in books, to see it happening was rather frightening.
"We knew we had little time. We grabbed a few possessions. As we bundled them into the car, we saw the wave hit the wharf (less than 100 metres away) and then wash over onto the road. This time my feet were really shaking on the pedals as we headed for the hills."
When he and his companion returned to Iva later that morning, they found that the church was still intact.
However, they soon discovered that in other parts of Samoa, "whole villages were wiped out, houses collapsed, cars upturned, fishing boats flung inland and resting between destroyed houses, and the dead being loaded onto trucks wrapped in mats, sarongs, towels, blankets, etc. It was so sad, so bizarre and grotesque, yet always dignified."
The head of the Salesian Missions Office in Australia, Brother Michael Lynch, said, "The Salesians in Savai'i and the Sisters in American Samoa are directly involved in supporting survivors, many of whom have sustained injuries and lost possessions. Funds to support them with their relief work will be transferred immediately."
In the Philippines, the highly populated island of Luzon was devastated by very severe flooding, caused by Typhoon Ketsana late in September.
While typhoons, known in Australia as cyclones, are common, this was particularly severe, and by some was labelled a "super typhoon".
The damage was not merely the loss of around 300 lives, but the devastation of houses, small farms and businesses, on which millions of people depend.
Organisations such as the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank, as well as countries like Australia, provided emergency relief, but the floods will affect poor communities for years.
Brother Lynch said: "The tropical storm, with its six-metre floods in the Greater Manila area, caused considerable damage to about two million homes. More than 400,000 are homeless. They are crowding into schools, churches, gymnasiums and other public buildings.
"The Salesian schools and parishes in Mandaluyong, Paranaque and in another 10 centres are providing emergency shelter.
"There is an urgent need for food, clean water and medicine. Donations received for flood victims will be transferred immediately to the Salesian centres in Manila."To assist the people of Samoa, American Samoa and the Philippines, you can send donations to:
The Salesian Missions Office,
PO Box 264,