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Philippines: I saw my sisters swept away

Mark and his brothers were swept out to sea by the storm
Mark is suffering from shock after being swept out to sea by the storm Photo: KoiiCanarias Photography for Save the Children

Nine-year-old Mark was swept out to sea in December 2011.

A devastating storm struck his village in the Philippines and for two days he desperately clung to a piece of roof – all that remained of his home.

He saw his sisters pulled away by the rushing floodwaters.

Mark’s parents and grandmother went missing. His father has still not returned, but Mark believes he is alive, because “he’s a fisherman and might be able to survive the floods”.

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The house collapsed

The nightmare began with the drumming of the rain. Then Mark’s mother started to shout, screaming for the children to get on to the roof.

Mark and his brothers and sisters clambered up and watched, horrified, as his parents tried to save his paralysed grandmother.

The house collapsed. The next thing Mark remembers is seeing his parents being swept away. Then Mark and his siblings were pulled out to sea.

“We didn’t know where we were going, but soon found ourselves in the middle of the sea,” he recalls.

His sisters lost their grip on the roof and were not seen again. They are among the estimated 1,200 dead.

Extreme stress and shock

After two days stranded at sea, desperately hungry, thirsty and shocked, Mark was rescued by boat.

He was distressed and referred to Save the Children.

We are helping him to recover from the disaster: he is talking to our staff about what happened and playing with other children who had similar experiences.

Mark still suffers from extreme stress and shock. “The sound of firecrackers reminds me of how my house collapsed,” he says. “I’ve been waking up to the sudden loud sounds of firecrackers and it scares me.”

Already on the ground

Save the Children was already on the ground when the disaster happened and responded immediately, providing clean water, towels and soap to families.

Longer term, we are working with local partners to train children to help other children affected by the disaster.

Our child protection teams will also train communities to support traumatised children and families.

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