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Mudslide wipes out communities in the Central Philippines

General Secretary of the UCCP Bishop Elmer Bolocon
This morning the Uniting Church in Australia was contacted by Bishop Elmer Bolocon with the news that an entire mountainside collapsed on to the village of Guinsaugon in Leyte, Central Philippines. Covering an area of nine square kilometers, local communities were buried under 30 meters of thick mud.

Bishop Bolocon is the General Secretary of our partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). He reports that Pastor Niel Toyhaco and his six month old son along with 65 other church members are among the 1,484 people who died in the tragedy last Friday. In neighbouring Magatas, 15 other UCCP members are feared dead.

The UCCP has formed a Task Group to assist in the search and rescue operation. Meanwhile, evacuees from neighbouring villages are being housed in UCCP facilities in St Bernard. Rescue efforts are concentrating on a school that was buried along with 206 children and 40 teachers.

Heavy rain hit in the region with 478 millimetres falling since 7th February (this is 5 times the average rainfall for the entire month of February). The National Disaster Coordinating Council warns there could be more landslides as “La Nina” is likely to cause further disasters over the next four months. Villagers in neighbouring communities are being evacuated and relocated.

Materials to construct temporary shelters, medicines, food, clothing, cooking utensils, blankets and equipment to retrieve bodies are all needed. Our partners write… “Our sisters and brothers are in great need. They will greatly appreciate all forms of help: your prayers or some material support or financial support.”

Uniting Church Overseas Aid (UCOA) responded immediately to this call for help. $A.5,000 was sent this morning to support emergency relief being carried out by our partner.

UCOA is not setting up a specific disaster appeal however donations to support the work of our partner in the Philippines can be sent to Uniting Church Oveseas Aid (PO Box A2266, Sydney South 1235), freecall 1800 998122 (Mastercard, Bankcard and Visacard accepted).

Photo : General Secretary of the UCCP Bishop Elmer Bolocon