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Thursday 18 September 2014

Typhoid and cholera threat in Philippines

Joyce Fegan in the Philippines

Published 13/11/2013 | 12:51

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Fr.shay Cullen

Typhoid and cholera are now threatening the worst hit parts of the Philippines after typhoon Yolanda because aid is slow to arrive, says Fr Shay Cullen who is based there.

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Food distribution is incredibly slow and a large plane carrying aid is currently stuck in Cebu, the only airport accepting commercial flights in the area. People have not eaten in days are they are "getting desperate," he said.

A communist group tried to take over a town that was hit by typhoon Yolanda and eight survivors were killed when the walls of a warehouse in Tacloban fell down as they tried to raid it for food, the Columban Father told the Irish Independent.

Tacloban, a thriving city in the Leyte province, was the worst hit. Fr Cullen said that sewage is a huge problem as septic tanks are filling up caused by more rain fall and there is no supply of clean water.

Tacloban is without light or power and people have no shelter. Almost 700,000 have been made homeless by the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall. People in the city are huddling under the last remaining church with a roof.

The large plane stuck in Cebu is too large for the airport in Tacloban currently being used by relief craft and radars are down.

The three-time Nobel prize nominee, Fr Cullen, said local government has broken down and everything is in "disarray" as there's no one to officially coordinate. Many local politicians lost relatives in the disaster and the mayor's house was destroyed. The mayor described his own escape as "miraculous."

Many Filipino people living in Ireland have lost contact with their families. Frank and Michelle O'Mahony from Cork were due to adopt a baby from Tacloban but they have not been in touch with the orphanage since the typhoon hit on Friday.

Angelina Tabamo is trying to talk to her family in the area but there has been no communication from the town where they live so no information exists yet.

A "great concern" for the Columban Fathers said Fr Cullen is the threat of abduction of children left orphaned by Yolanda. Fr Cullen who founded Preda in 1974 has spent his life helping children and says that the latest disaster leaves them at risk to the illegal adoption and sex trade there.

Irish Aid supplies arrived today and GOAL have a number of staff on the ground assessing how to start recovery.

Fr Shay said that all of the mango farms there that supply to Irish and UK supermarkets have been wiped out and there is not a "leaf left on any tree" so there will be no blossoming of fruits for many farmers in the region this year.

He said that having worked with Filipinos for over 40 years he is in no doubt that they will "get through this." The Columban Father with headquarters in Dalgan Park, Navan described the Filipino people as "resilient" and "strong-minded."

Irish Independent

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