Christian Agencies Offer Aid to Taiwan Typhoon Victims

( [email protected] ) Aug 16, 2009 09:00 AM EDT
Christian relief groups were among some of the first organizations to respond to Taiwan’s Typhoon Morakot and remain active in helping in the aftermath of the disaster.
Relatives of flood victims wait for Taiwan military rescue helicopters to land at an emergency landing zone in Cishan, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 14, 2009. Taiwanese relief workers struggled to rescue 1,900 villagers still stranded Friday nearly a week after a devastating typhoon, and disaster officials said as many as 400 people may have been buried in mudslides in the worst-hit village. (Photo: AP/Wally Santana)

Christian relief groups were among some of the first organizations to respond to Taiwan’s Typhoon Morakot and remain active in helping in the aftermath of the disaster.

World Vision, the world’s largest Christian humanitarian group, is providing emergency relief and rehabilitation support to hundreds of families affected by the catastrophic typhoon.

"The most pressing needs now are providing shelter, food, and clean water for those who have had to evacuate their homes," says Hank Du, executive director for World Vision in Taiwan. "We also want to make sure the children are secure and have a safe place where they are cared for."

Ministry workers have been helping victims since Sunday, the day after the typhoon hit Taiwan. They have provided emergency assistance to 700 people in shelters, distributing food and cleaning supplies, and some 684 relief kits containing flashlights, radios, raincoats, gloves, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and towels.

Staffs were able to respond quickly because some had been working in the affected areas for years, and pre-positioned supplies allowed for a quick response.

Typhoon Morakot, the worst typhoon to hit Taiwan in half a century, hit the island’s southern and eastern areas on Aug. 7 and 8. It dumped more than 80 inches of rain on the island and stranded thousands of villagers in mountainous areas in the south. Over 21,000 villagers were rescued to safety.

President Ma Ying-jeou said Friday he estimates more than 500 people have died because of the typhoon. The official death toll, however, is 123.

Most of the deaths are in Shiao Lin village, which lost more than half of its population. Some 380 people are thought to have died in Shiao Lin, due to landslides from the surrounding mountains.

"Many of the affected live in remote areas, and the roads are in bad condition. Highways and bridges are flooded and blocked by mudslides, fallen trees, and other large debris,” said Wesley Chen, Taiwan's southern area manager for World Vision. “For those who can't reach shelters, we are working to find ways to bring aid to them."

On Saturday, Taiwan’s president offered his first apology for the slow response after coming under heavy criticism from the public for his handling of the crisis. Among the criticism is the government’s refusal to accept foreign aid earlier this week. It told world donors to just send money instead.

But on Saturday, an official said the government on Friday had asked Japan, the United States and European countries for large equipments such as helicopters and mobile homes.

While World Vision is working on distributing emergency supplies to victims, The Salvation Army in Taiwan is working with the country’s military in its rescue operation. It plans to help transport people and household goods back to villages once the crisis is over, provide medium-term shelter/housing and community buildings to victims, distribute disinfectant, water and other cleaning materials and equipment to affected villages in hard-hit Tainan County, and provide sleeping bags to the growing number of refugees in emergency shelters.

The government estimates the cost of agricultural and property damage is over $1.5 billion.

World Vision aims to raise about $780,000 to provide aid to families affected by Typhoon Morakot.

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