"This terrible typhoon cut us off from our people for five or six days," says Sister Emma Lee Ling-ling, executive secretary of Caritas Taiwan. "It was only on Friday, August 14th, that we got in contact with our sisters, priests and parishes. About 90 bridges and roads have been destroyed or washed away, so it's only now we know something."
CRS is funding Caritas' distribution of sleeping bags, quilts, flashlights and more. "The people affected are extremely poor, says Sister Emma. "A priest from the mountain [the area worst affected] texted us the things they need, so we've assembled 500 kits with those items." Toiletries and medicine are included.
"We have some brave volunteers," Sister Emma continues. "It's hard to reach some of the people. We have to walk for hours on foot."
Speaking of the Daughters of Charity in Taiwan, Sister Emma says, "Some of our sisters go to be with the people and comfort them. Other sisters are driving around, distributing the relief items. Two of our sisters from the mountain area of LiuKui accompanied a group of elderly people, ill people, and children who are victims down to KaoHsung city this afternoon. They will settle them at a former minor seminary as a temporary shelter."
"We have a center for handicapped youth. Disabled teenagers helped us pack the kits," she goes on. "Everyone is trying to help." Several Daughters of Charity work in St. Mary's hospital in Taitung; the bishop commissioned the hospital to be a receiving center for needy survivors.
"Most of the survivors are completely distraught over the loss of their loved ones," says Sister Emma. Survivors are especially concerned about government plans to remove bodies in villages buried by mud. "The government wants to do this for sanitary reasons, understandably, but people are upset and crying [because this is not the custom]. They say, 'Let them rest, don't disturb them.'"
Sister Emma sees many challenges ahead. "There will be a need to help school children who have lost parents, to get them back in school-fees, books, and so on," she says.
"Many of the typhoon survivors have lost everything-it's heartrending," says Eda Detros, who manages CRS' outreach programs in the Pacific. "CRS is committed to helping them recover."
Sister Emma asks for prayers: "We pray there is no more rain, because the rain is still coming."