Chief of the Staff Designate on Leyte landslide

Commissioner Robin Dunster reports on Philippine landslide.

by Robin Dunster, Commissioner – 

The head of The Salvation Army work in The Philippines is Commissioner Robin Dunster, who is set to become, on 2 April 2006, the Army’s first woman Chief of the Staff—second in command of The Salvation Army’s work in all 111 countries where it serves.

[Manila, 24 February] Historically, The Philippines is a disaster prone archipelago.

In recent years, many of the disasters experienced have been exacerbated by environmental abuse.

There are conflicting opinions regarding the cause of the mudslide that buried a total community on Friday, February 17. Decades of deforestation for economic gain, both by the sale of forest timber and the establishment of coconut plantations and food crops, have left hill slopes unprotected. Mining activity, thirty years ago, may have contributed to the problem.

The mudslide in Barangay Guinsaugon, Saint Bernard, Southern Leyte was triggered by unusually heavy and unseasonable rainfall preceded by a mild (2.6) earthquake.

On the day when demonstrations rocked the capital at Manila and President Gloria Arroyo declared a “State of Emergency” (after the army said it had prevented a coup), the search for survivors has now been called off.

Salvation Army response teams from Central Philippines (Manila is a 24 hour road and sea voyage from the affected area) and Visayas Islands Divisions are in the area. Contact cannot be made with them and we perpetually entrust them to the care of God.

The Manila team is expected to make its report and recommendations for rehabilitation programs within the next few days.

In partnership with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, relief supplies of sleeping mats and blankets have been despatched on a military airlift from Manila to Tacloban, whence the goods will be transported by road to Saint Bernard.

Reports indicate that the majority of survivors are men from the Guinsaugon community. A Bible League representative confirms that this is an area where people’s hearts have long been hardened to the Gospel. It is the only region where Bible League does not have a chapter. As The Salvation Army, together with other Christian churches, renders practical, moral and spiritual support to grieving relatives and friends, they are a witness to the love of God. We pray that this testimony will bear much fruit!

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