According to a report from ISKCON Philippines Communications Director Sridama Das, ISKCON devotees in the Philippines remain safe and unharmed in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, and are planning relief efforts to aid the less fortunate.
The super-typhoon struck the Philippines on Thursday November 7th with winds of 195mph, and is being described as the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history.
As it raged across the Southeast-Asian islands through November 8th, local authorities say it killed at least 10,000 people. And according to UN officials, about 11 million have been affected, with many left homeless.
ISKCON’s main temples in the Philippines -- the Sri Sri Madhava Mandir located at Makati City in Metro Manila, and the New Navadvip Eco Village in Alaminos, Laguna, were spared any major damage, however.
“Fortunately, the path of the typhoon came through the central part of the Philippines and thus spared the Northern part of the country, Luzon, where our main temples are located,” says Sridama Das. “We felt heavy rains and strong winds in these areas, but not enough to cause substantial damage.”
At the New Navadvip Eco Village, a tree did fall near devotees’ residential huts, but missed them by a few inches. The community’s crops and agricultural fields survived with very minimal damage. There was no other damage.
In Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines, Vaishnava Das and his wife Lalita Dasi -- who run a small ISKCON center from their home -- were bracing themselves for the worst, as the path of the typhoon was to pass through Cebu.
However, once again, they escaped with minimal damage.
“Except for some few roofing materials that were blown away from neighboring houses, the center was not damaged, and the Deities and devotees are safe,” says Sridama. “Some devotees living some distance away from the center had to relocate their families to safer places in anticipation that their houses might get flooded or blown away. But so far we have not received any reports of casualties.”
With its devotees safe, ISKCON is looking to do what it can for the less fortunate.
“The main brunt and fury of the typhoon was at a place called Leyte province,” Sridama says. “The capital city, Tacloban, is now like a ghost town. Everything you see is flattened and almost all the houses are destroyed. Dead bodies are lying on the main streets. There is no food, water or electricity. People are going hungry and thirsty.”
On their way to Leyte Province to help is a travelling sankirtan party of six devotees, headed by Balaram Das. The group has gathered some donations, and plans to conduct a Food for Life program, serving vegetarian meals to the needy.
With 10,000 dead in the Philippines and panic in the streets, Sridama makes it clear that these brave devotees will risk their lives on this mission.
“Citizens who can afford it are opting to take airplanes arranged by the military to fly out of there,” he says. “There is now looting going on in the streets, and if you walk unguarded there is a good chance that you will be robbed of all your possessions. Lawlessness is the order of the day. The government is helpless.”
Despite all this, however, it’s likely that the devotees’ efforts will be greatly appreciated, as other relief efforts are encountering many problems.
“Food supplies and the like are being flown in, but cannot get to far-flung areas due to congested and damaged roads,” Sridama says.
Other ISKCON communities around the world are currently trying to find ways to help with Food For Life efforts.
ISKCON News will continue providing updates on the situation.
Filipino devotees have set up a way for international ISKCON members to donate to the cause. Anyone wishing to contribute please send your donation to the following bank account:
Account Name: ISKCON SRI SRI RADHA-MADHAVA MANDIR-FOOD FOR LIFE OR ISSRMM-FOOD FOR LIFE
Account Number : 291-729182246-7
Bank: Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company
Branch: Bagtikan, Makati City
Address: G/F Lou-Bel Plaza Bldg., Chino Roces Ave. cor Bagtikan Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City
Tel Nos. (+632) 896-9693
Swiftcode: MBTCPHMM[ disaster ] [ natural ] [ philippines ] [ typhoon ]