In the Philippines, a precarious Christmas for the survivors of Typhoon Rai


After the passage of Typhoon Rai, which devastated the archipelago on December 16, hundreds of thousands of people in the Philippines spent Christmas Eve in more than precarious conditions: without a roof, without food, nor drinking water, without electricity. and without a telephone network or Internet. The islands of Mindanao, Siargao, Dinagat and Bohol are among the most devastated by the storm which left nearly 400 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.

In the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, families usually get together to share a Christmas meal. But the extensive destruction caused by Rai limited the celebrations. Standing in a puddle, in his church San Isidro Labrador in the town of Alegria, at the northern end of the island of Mindanao, ravaged by the typhoon, Father Ricardo Virtudazo celebrated mass in front of a few dozen of faithful who, this Christmas year, would like to receive shelter, food and good weather.

« The important thing is that we are all safe »says Joy Parera, who came to attend Christmas mass with her husband at San Isidro Labrador Church. A fine rain soaked the pews and the white tiles of the damaged church, whose ceiling is pierced with a gaping hole since the passage of the typhoon. The faithful gathered inside, wearing masks, prayed for a better year. « We still have hope », assures Father Virtudazo to Agence France-Presse (AFP). « Despite the calamities they suffer, [les Philippins] always have faith in God ”, he said.

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Appeal for international aid

The extent of the damage, the lack of a telephone signal and Internet network in many regions, as well as the exhaustion of state coffers due to the pandemic have hampered the arrival of aid. Arthur Yap, governor of the hard-hit Bohol province – where more than 100 people perished in the typhoon and around 150,000 houses were damaged or destroyed -, on Saturday, December 25, asked foreign aid agencies to ‘Help provide temporary shelters and water filtration systems to complement Philippine government assistance.

For Christmas this year, all Nardel Vicente would want would be some help buying a new roof for his house in Alegria, destroyed by the typhoon. Without a job and with little money, Mr. Vicente admits that his family cannot afford a festive meal. « In previous years, we had spaghetti, pork, chicken, whatever we could afford », says this 38-year-old man. But, he adds, “It’s okay, we’re alive. « 

Marites Sotis usually serves meat, spring rolls and salad to his family. But not this year. « We won’t have any because it is very expensive »This 53-year-old woman, who lives in the coastal town of Placer, where the storm knocked down most of the family’s coconut trees, told AFP. « We will be satisfied with spaghetti », she says.

Some survivors from nearby Surigao City have stood on the roads for days begging for money and food from passing motorists. They have not received any help from the government. Inaga Edulzura, 41, is only hoping to get a package of spaghetti to cook for her family. Otherwise, they « Will be satisfied with slices of bread ». “Our only wish is that there is good weather on Christmas day to give us a little joy. That and food. « 

Read also Typhoon Rai-ravaged Bohol Island in the Philippines calls for help

Le Monde with AP and AFP

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