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Typhoon Haiyan: Cut off from the rest of the world

by Lynette Lim, Save the Children Asia communications manager

It started at 5:30am. Strong winds and heavy rains – it all seemed manageable at first, but after an hour of constant pounding, I knew something was about to give way.

After the windows in our building in the Department of Education compound  broke, the six Save the Children staff evacuated ourselves to the next building and then the next, until we found ourselves in our final safe room.

That was nerve-racking enough for us – but what about the children in far less sturdy buildings, with the relentlessly pounding rain and their zinc roofs blowing into the sky? At the storm’s height, I found myself hoping fervently  that the ceiling would not fall on us, while gazing fixedly at a tree about to crash through the window.

 Cut off from the rest of the world

We were texting information and giving media interviews, but pretty soon the cell reception went. Then the radio signals went silent.

This is what it feels like to be cut off from the rest of the world.

Peering out the window after the storm passed, I saw an area that appeared completely flattened. Like the tornados that struck Moore in Oklahoma earlier this year, but with the added element of metre-high floodwaters.

As I write this at 12:30pm, there are still no functioning lines of communication but we know that the storm we’ve just seen must have brought severe damage and destruction, and possibly the loss of many lives.*

Typhoon heading for an earthquake zone

To make things worse, the storm may have passed us but it is headed straight to Bohol, where hundreds of thousands of children are living in temporary shelters, tents and tarpaulin following last month’s earthquake. That is certainly not accommodation that will be safe in a storm of this magnitude.

The next few days will determine the extent of the damage, the fatalities and the needs of the survivors. Save the Children has been working in the Philippines for 30 years and responding to emergencies here since 2006. We are already on the ground dealing with this disaster and we will be working around the clock to reach the worst-affected children and their families.

* Officials currently estimate the death toll as 10,000, with around 4.3 million people affected in 41 provinces. 630,054 people have been displaced, of whom 447,675 are staying in evacuation centres.

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