Philippines Relief Teams Kick into Overdrive

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TACLOBAN, Philippines -- CBN's Disaster Relief warehouse in Manila is in overdrive mode.

"Actually, we've been in this mode for the past five months," Dr. Kim Pascual, CBN's Operation Blessing chief operating officer, said. "We've had typhoons, we've had earthquakes, we had the war in the south and now this devastating typhoon."

Pascual says Typhoon Haiyan is by far the biggest disaster they've had to deal with.

"The scale of this is so big," she said.

The destruction is wide, spread across six Philippine islands, and is presenting huge logistical challenges for aid distribution.

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"The problem is that we are dealing with small islands, small islands that didn't have transportation from the very beginning," she explained.

But with help from local partners, supplies are getting to the hardest hit areas by plane and boat.

One of those cities is Tacloban. A 17-foot storm surge swept away the port city, destroying a majority of the homes and businesses. On a recent afternoon, CBN Disaster Relief teams set up an emergency mobile clinic near the home of survivor Maritess Bacho.

"My family had to hold on to trees to survive," Bacho told CBN News.

Nothing is left of her neighborhood. She's now living in a makeshift structure. Like so many of the survivors here, Bacho and her two children were treated for upper respiratory problems.

"These medicines will make us feel better," she said.

Among the dozens of patients being seen was a little girl born three days after the typhoon. She was here for her first doctor's visit.

"The day the typhoon hit I started having contractions and was praying, 'God, please I don't want to give birth now!" she said.

Her mother named her Yolanda, which is the Filipino name for Typhoon Haiyan. CBN News asked why she named her daughter after a storm that caused incredible destruction.

"We are facing so many hardships, and despite the deaths, destroyed homes, hunger, no food, no jobs, we are still thankful that God has given us a new life, a new baby," she said.

The official death toll from the typhoon stands at nearly 4,000, but officials say it could rise much higher. Some 11 million Filipinos have been affected, many displaced or left homeless.

Long term, the mental health of survivors is also a concern. Government officials in one city asked CBN Disaster Relief to provide counseling for typhoon victims.

"We expect a lot of patients to face a lot of stress," said Dr. Jojo Rivera, CBN Disaster Relief volunteer.

In the makeshift waiting area, Carle Balasanos, a volunteer with the team, talked to survivors about not giving up.

"Don't lose hope guys," Balasanos tells survivors. "Even if Yolanda came to destroy or whatever, I know that God has a purpose and all things work together for good."

Tacloban was the capital city for six provinces here in the Visayas. Today, they're faced with the unimaginable task of massive rebuilding.

"We can be overwhelmed by what we see from the news, but what we are thinking is zeroing in on a village, invest in a village so that it can make a difference, that we can transform and we can really say there is hope even in the midst of disaster," Dr. Kim said.

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CBN News
George Thomas

George Thomas

CBN News Sr. Reporter

CBN News is a national/international, nonprofit news organization that provides programming 24 hours a day by cable, satellite and the Internet.