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Relief teams gear up for Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (BP)–Southern Baptists are gearing up a major disaster response in the wake of a typhoon that flooded the homes of 2.3 million people in the Philippines.

A specialized disaster response team from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will lead the effort with an Oct. 5 departure to lay the groundwork for a larger contingent of volunteers who will arrive two days later, said Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization.

The teams planning to follow the SBTC group will be drawn from Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas Baptist Men disaster relief units, Brown said. All the teams are being drawn from the list of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units on standby for international emergency response during August and September. The volunteers will focus on cleanup and “mud-out” duties, which includes tasks like thoroughly disinfecting buildings and tearing out damaged interiors.

Typhoon Ketsana slammed into Manila and surrounding provinces, dumping a month’s worth of rain in just 12 hours. Relief organizations say it is the country’s worst flooding in 40 years. At least 288 people have been reported dead or missing and nearly 400,000 people have sought shelter in evacuation centers that even included the presidential palace, according to news reports. Manila, a crowded city of 12 million people that sits below sea level, was reported 80 percent under water after the storm passed.

Southern Baptists and local believers began meeting needs of flood victims in the immediate aftermath of the storm, Brown said. BGR communicated with ministry partners about relief needs in the Philippines and relayed that information to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams on standby for emergency response.

“Local ministry partners went to work immediately after the storm, providing emergency food and water purchased through the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund,” Brown said. “After receiving preliminary assessment information from local field partners, we are gearing up for a major response.”

Jill Harvell, a Southern Baptist partner living in Quezon City, organized church members and local residents to pack 400 bags of rice, powdered milk, canned meat and coffee to distribute to families affected by the flood.

The typhoon moved on from the Philippines to wreak havoc in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos as well. Authorities in the affected areas have been searching for more victims and delivering food, medical supplies and plastic sheeting to displaced people.

Ketsana was just the first of three disasters to strike the Asia Rim region in recent days. A powerful deep-sea earthquake Sept. 29 triggered a series of tsunamis that caused widespread death and destruction in Samoa and American Samoa. On Sept. 30, a powerful earthquake struck Indonesia’s Sumatra island, killing at least 75 people in Padang and trapping thousands under rubble.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly. Baptist Global Response is on the Internet at gobr.org.

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