MANILA, Philippines (BP)–Thirty Southern Baptist disaster relief specialists have completed a week’s labor in the Philippines capital, helping local partners and community residents dig out from a flood that inundated vast sections of the city.
“The past few weeks have been filled with disaster, starting with 16 inches of rain in one day that left metro Manila 80 percent flooded,” said Gloria Fern, a Southern Baptist worker in the Philippines. “Then a typhoon made landfall three times up north, flooding out the top part of Luzon and destroying the entire rice crop. Landslides cut off the major roads, the major dams are all full and gates had to be opened, causing more flooding. The Laguna de Bay lake left surrounded towns in knee-deep flooding that will take five months to subside. And there are two more storms on the horizon.”
The Philippines government has estimated about 6 million people were affected by typhoons Ketsana and Parma. More than 287,000 people remain in evacuation centers.
The Southern Baptist volunteers — 29 men and one woman from Texas, Oklahoma and Kentucky — have been helping local residents shovel out their homes, enduring difficult work conditions and the stench of rotting debris, Fern said. Some of the work has been done in pastors’ homes and church buildings, while the rest has focused on the community in general. A public school was on the agenda for Oct. 12.
“We took them to Malanday, Marikina, which was flooded up to the second story in many areas,” Fern said. “I was so impressed with their expertise, commitment and just good old ‘git busy and git ‘er done’ attitude! And yet taking time to talk to people and even pass out lollipops to the kids.
“The smell was putrid, rotting two-weeks-old sewer and garbage — yet everyone there smiled and chatted with us like it was just another normal day,” Fern added. “We are so proud to see these brave, rugged Baptist men who are trained to go to some of the worst disasters ever and clean up!”
One volunteer, Ray Fultz of Crestwood Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., was injured when a nail pierced the middle finger of his right hand while he was helping clean out a church building, according to Kathy North, another Southern Baptist worker in the Philippines. While Fultz was up to date on his tetanus shots, the finger became infected over the weekend and a doctor was tending to the wound.
Flooding often is followed by severe medical concerns and that is the case in Manila, noted Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response, in international relief and development organization.
“News reports indicate the water is still waist-deep, even chest-deep in places,” Brown said. “It has been standing for three weeks now. The longer water stagnates, the greater the risk of diseases like malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea – even typhoid.”
Fern echoed that concern: “The cities of Marikina, Cainta and Pasig are in dire need of medical teams, but even before that they need front loaders and more dump trucks to even make a dent in the mounds and mounds of garbage heaped less than a foot from their doors.”
Residents of the community where the volunteers are working have been deeply moved by the fact that Southern Baptists care enough to come help people in need, even in the most difficult of circumstances, Fern said.
“Thank you for caring about our fellow Christians in this community and the lost people around them,” she said.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly. Information about helping with the Philippines relief effort is available at gobgr.org.