Joel Hogan worked as a Christian Reformed World Missions missionary for seven years in Tacloban, a city of about 200,000 people on Leyte island, which was in the eye of Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines last Friday.
In fact, he lived on a road leading from a Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines (CRCP) congregation near the water and the airport. This road has been packed in recent days — first with debris and now with homeless people seeking to escape the devastation.
Hogan, director of world ministries for CRWM, says he is deeply troubled, thinking of the many people with whom he worked, fearing they were caught in the tremendous surge of ocean brought on by the storm.
Initially, the government estimated that 10,000 people died as a result of the storm. But that number has dropped to between 2,000 and 2,500, according to CNN on Wednesday. Reports say Tacloban was flattened by the storm. Bodies are strewn everywhere.
Speaking of the area’s vulnerability, Hogan recalls one time when 10 inches of rain fell on the community in a short time and caused terrible flooding.
Water poured down hills that had been previously stripped of trees, swamping communities and leaving some 8,000 people dead. "It is hard for us to imagine what it is like for those people there right now as they wait for assistance," said Hogan.
Although he doesn't know for sure, Hogan says the CRCP congregation — the one near his home when he lived there — was probably swept away by the storm surge. It was located right along the ocean’s shore.
Hogan says a retired CRWM missionary is currently on his way with a team of others from Manila to assess the damage in the hard-hit areas. “Right now there is little information coming out of there,” he said.
Once the assessment of needs is done, the CRCP will let other churches, including the CRC, know how it can help.
Even before the storm hit late last week, World Renew had already sent assistance to the CRCP.
World Renew currently is in the process of seeking donations for additional relief for devastated areas in the chain of some 1700 islands.
The storm, named "Yolanda" by Filipino authorities, hit Vietnam this week, but it had weakened to a tropical storm by then.