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Typhoon Haiyan: three days in devastation

Typhoon Haiyan devastation in Tacloban
Typhoon Haiyan devastation in Tacloban

When the typhoon hit on 8 November, I wasn’t in one of the most affected areas but still I was uneasy. I had a team of colleagues in Tacloban and I was also concerned about my family in Leyte. There was no news on Saturday so I decided to go to Leyte with a colleague. We took a fast boat to Ormoc, on Leyte Island, pulling in to a city in darkness. My family, happily, were fine, but as the sun rose we could see the destruction brought by Yolanda. I immediately started working.

Day 2: Palo and Tacloban

Next day, we went to Palo. A mass grave for 60 unidentified bodies had been dug in the church grounds; the stench of death was terrible.  We met one of our team members who is from Palo and were glad to see that he and his family were okay. We took a motorbike to Tacloban; we’d had 2 bikes but we were short on fuel.

As we drew closer to Tacloban, we were amazed by the damage. We could smell death here, too, and there were a lot of people roaming the streets. Some were looting shops. There were police and military around but they were spread thin along the highway and could do nothing. I tried to search for my brother. Mud, electric posts and wire blocked the roads. The landmarks had gone, which made it hard to find their place. My brother and his family were thankfully alive and well but getting them out of Tacloban was going to be a problem: they would have to walk all the way to the airport, several miles past debris and bodies, in the hope of getting on a C-130 airplane there. But it was better than staying put.

I walked around the city: it was like a ghost town. Warehouses and stores had been looted. Children huddled together while their parents tried to look for food or wash their clothes. The military were distributing a little bit of relief; I saw the owner of a warehouse doing the same. I also saw a volunteer from the Department of Health going around the side streets handing out basic medicines to those in need. The city I had known as vivid and lively was unrecognisable. In fact, as darkness fell it was pretty scary. In any case, I had to head back to Palo in time to beat the curfew.

Day 3: Ormoc

On my way back to Ormoc my mind was ticking over with strategies for getting aid to the affected areas as quickly as possible. It is good to know that we are not alone at this time of strife: so many people both local and foreign have rushed to help. At a time like this, with Save the Children staff and supporters rallying to support those in need, the organisation really does feel like a family. And like people who have been helped by generous, unjudging relatives, we really appreciate what the world is doing to support us.

 

Edwin Philip Horca, Save the Children, the Philippines

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