Typhoon Hagupit steamrolls the Philippines

MANILA –– One year after Typhoon Haiyan steamrolled through the Philippines, another typhoon is carving a path of destruction through the islands.

Typhoon Hagupit, or ‘Ruby,’ as it is known locally, made landfall Saturday evening, Dec. 6. The slow-moving storm is expected to strike six Philippines islands before it moves out to sea Tuesday.

Filipino disaster response teams are poised and ready to respond as needed and Baptist Global Response is on standby for a full report on the damages, said Patrick Melancon, BGR’s managing director of disaster response and training.

“The Philippines is somewhat better prepared for this after having learned a few lessons in Haiyan last year,” Melancon said. “Right now, the information I have is that there is little loss of life and mostly a lot of rain.”

As many as 48 million people live in the path of the typhoon.  Ahead of the storm, up to 1 million evacuated to shelters – including a school building on Gibitngil island rebuilt by BGR volunteers earlier this year.

Last year’s Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people and rendering 200,000 people homeless. Before it made landfall, Typhoon Hagupit weakened to the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane. The storm is expected to weaken further as it moves over the islands.

In the city of Tacloban, hardest-hit by last year’s storm, 48,000 people were moved to shelters ahead of Typhoon Hagupit’s arrival. Adore and Hope Sabido, Filipino BGR project directors, and Glen and Marvella Thompson, also BGR project directors, will soon travel to Tacloban to begin damage assessments.

The assessment team will connect with Carl and Suzie Miller, IMB missionaries in Tacloban and survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, (click here to read their story of survival).

The Millers reported strong wind and rains in Tacloban but they say the storm damage is much less than that caused by last year’s typhoon.

Cell phone lines are down in some areas, including Eastern Samar, a province bordering Tacloban. The BGR team and local IMB missionaries are waiting for an update on believers in the area.

Stan and Dottie Smith, IMB missionaries on the island of Cebu, expressed concern about Gibitngil, an island situated just north of Cebu.

“Being a [smaller] island exposes them to the effects of the storm much more intensely than the mainland,” Stan Smith said.

Early reports indicate rain and wind were strong on Gibitngil. Families on the island are gathered in the local school for safety. Volunteers with BGR helped rebuild this school after Typhoon Haiyan left its mark last year.

BGR’s desire is for Filipino believers to lead out in Typhoon Hagupit disaster relief efforts, but help from American Southern Baptists will be needed, Ben Wolf, the Asia Rim director for BGR, says.

Southern Baptists played a crucial role in recovery and rebuilding after Typhoon Haiyan.

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