People gather on a field after twin earthquakes struck Batanes province on the northernmost island of the Philippines, July 27, 2019. Bishop Danilo Ulep of the Batanes prelature has appealed for prayers and help for victims of the disaster. CNS photo/Edna Gato, social media via Reuters

Philippine bishop appeals for help for hundreds of earthquake victims

  • July 29, 2019

MANILA, Philippines -- A Catholic bishop in the northernmost island of the Philippines has appealed for prayers and help for victims of twin earthquakes that rocked Batanes province July 27.

Updated 2019-07-31:
Information added in new fourth, fifth, 11th and 12th paragraphs.

Bishop Danilo Ulep of the Batanes prelature said he sent a team to Itbayat, the hardest-hit town, to assess the situation, reported.

"Right now, all we are accepting is financial assistance because other needs like food, water, medicines, etc. are being addressed by the government," Bishop Ulep said.

Caritas Philippines, the church's aid and development agency, launched a "solidarity appeal" for the province.

Authorities declared a "state of calamity" in the town of Itbayat, where centuries-old churches, schools, houses and other buildings were demolished by two major earthquakes. At least eight died, 63 were injured and one person was reported missing.

The government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council recorded 180 aftershocks by July 28.

"The entire island was shaken so I'm under the impression that everybody is affected," Mark Timbal, council spokesman, said.

He said residents have been advised not to enter buildings due to the risk of collapse, adding that temporary shelters have been established for residents.

Citing initial reports from the affect area, Timbal said 15 houses, two schools, two health facilities, and a church were severely damaged by the temblors and that other substantial damage was reported.

Authorities said about 3,000 people were affected.

The council said transporting relief goods to Itbayat has been the "main challenge." Located on the northern tip of the Philippines, it can only be reached by boat. The town's airport can only handle small aircraft. Helicopters have to be used to airlift supplies.

Ricardo Jalad of the government's disaster response office said there are enough food supplies, "but the challenge is transportation."

Church leaders, meanwhile, warned against scammers out to take advantage of people who need help.

Father Ronaldo Manabat, vice chancellor of the prelature, cautioned the public against a Facebook account using the name of Bishop Ulep.

He said someone behind the "fake account" is raising money to supposedly help earthquake victims in Itbayat. The prelature also urged the public to watch out for false charities, especially using the name of the local church.

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