CEBU, Philippines — The widespread destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines has left "people just fighting to survive," Patrick Seger, a volunteer with the Samaritan's Purse
Christian international relief organization run by the Rev. Franklin Graham, told Newsmax.
"They need water. They need food," Seger told Newsmax in a telephone interview from Cebu, the country's oldest and second-largest city. It is about 100 miles south of the hardest-hit city, Tacloban. "Sanitation. The people are sleeping out in the weather."
Seger, who has worked in relief operations for Samaritan's Purse for more than 10 years, is heading up the organization's disaster-response team in the Philippines. He was among 10 workers who arrived in Cebu on Saturday.
The city was not hit by Haiyan, which struck on Friday. The International Committee of the Red Cross has raised the death toll to 2,357, with as many as 600,000 people displaced by the typhoon, which local residents call "Yolanda."
Planes carrying supplies began landing at Tacloban airport on Thursday — and food, water, and medical supplies have arrived from the United States, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan's Purse has helped meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine “with the purpose of sharing God's love through his Son, Jesus Christ,” according to the organization.
The eldest son of evangelist Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth, Franklin Graham serves as president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse as well as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Meanwhile, 20 more Samaritan's Purse volunteers, including eight doctors who will establish a field hospital, are expected to arrive by next week.
The organization also is flying in a 747 airplane with about 100 tons of supplies, ranging from plastic sheeting to rope to food and hygiene kits, Seger said.
The plane should arrive this weekend.
In addition, volunteers can purchase food locally — rice, fish, canned products — for typhoon victims, Seger said. They also can buy generators for their field work, he said. The team is working out of an office donated by an American businessman who has a company in Cebu.
"Our donors in the U.S. have been very generous in the work that we're doing, so our operations are scaling up here to help them," Seger said.
He described Tacloban as "ground zero. There's total devastation. Ninety percent of the homes, businesses, churches — everything — were just destroyed or were badly damaged."
But Samaritan's Purse will also focus its efforts on Palau, an island south of Tacloban that also was struck by the typhoon.
"No one is working there. Everything is focused around Talcoban, but the destruction may be equally as bad in Palau or worse," he said. "It's just that whole area around the coast is bad.
"We've definitely seen the extensive damage to these areas," Seger continued. "In some areas, everything is just flattened to the ground. There's nothing standing at all, which is really the challenge in rebuilding here."
The Philippine military will help Samaritan's Purse volunteers get supplies from the airport to the affected areas, he said, and the group also is working with volunteers with the organization's Operation Christmas Child Program.
That effort distributes gift-filled shoe boxes to children around the world. Since 1993, more than 100 million children have received gifts through the program.
"Whenever a disaster happens like this, we work through our established partners," Seger said. "They already have the local contacts and have everything that is needed for us to come in and get running on the ground. We're not coming in cold."
Samaritan's Purse also is working with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to not duplicate efforts.
Seger has worked many Samaritan's Purse relief over the years, including Typhoon Ketsana in 2009 that killed 747 people and caused $
1.09 billion in damage, but Haiyan was far more destructive.
"Many storms come across the Philippines, but this storm has caused a lot of damage because the storm surge was very high and the high winds. The combination of those two just left a lot of destruction. Just putting those two together doubled the impact of the storm."
He said that he is not sure how long the Samaritan's Purse team will be working in the Philippines.
"Our donors have been very gracious to allow us to come here and to help these people," Seger told Newsmax. "If our people continue to give to the work of Samaritan's Purse, then that will allow us to continue to work here.
"There are still many needs, and I'm sure that, like in many disasters, this will go out of the news in a short time, but the work and the need could last through the next year, or longer than that."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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