FFE Magazine

Typhooon Yolanda: tales of Survival Part IV

Days after super typhoon Yolanda hit the country, stories from the survivors are surfacing, giving us extraordinary accounts of human strength, spirit and hope.

 

The Peace Corps volunteers’ stories

 

Many foreigners have also withstood the power of typhoon Yolanda when it hit the Philippines 8 November. Three of them are American Peace Corps graduate students from the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

 

Andrew Wynne, Laura Mudge and Tyler Hassig were assigned to work with the Marine Protected Area System programme in Eastern Visayas. The programme aims to curb over-fishing in Southeast Asia. The programme has been put on hold since the typhoon struck the country.

 

Andrew was in a fishing village in Bicol on Friday. The community he was with was luckily spared from the extreme damage the other regions received from the onslaught of the typhoon. He is now helping in relief operations in the hardest-hit areas.

 

Laura was assigned in Baybay City, south of Ormoc in Leyte Island. When the storm passed over the area, she said she crouched inside a brand new cinder block building while waiting for the assault of wind and waves to die down. When the sun finally broke out, she peered outside her window only to see the desolation around her.

 

The volunteer said most of Baybay’s buildings, homes, trees and fishing fleet were completely destroyed. Laura had to rush to Ormoc city after the storm to aid a safety officer. From there, Laura was evacuated to Manila and has since been helping in relief efforts for the city she learned to embrace.

 

Tyler was in a fishing community in Carles, Panay island that fateful day. Panay island was also on the path of the typhoon, and was left reeling after the storm. He shares what transpired on 12 November 13:

 

Tyler and five other volunteers were in Iloilo City four days after the storm. They have been immediately evacuated from the devastated towns and consolidated in one dispatching centre in the city. Tyler helped pack trucks with rice, canned sardines, noodles and bottled water that were bound for the municipalities of Iloilo province.

 

He said he was also part of a small medical team which was dispatched to Panay island. On the way to the small towns, Tyler saw washed out rice paddies where the water was still so high it forced people to camp on the road. Fallen trees and power lines made it difficult for the group to reach their staging point and Tyler’s home community: Carles. He also saw that entire mountainsides were laid bare, giant trees were stripped fully of their leaves, coconuts were snapped in half and homes were smashed to bits and piled into rubbles.

 

Tyler said the whole scene looked as if a giant bomb was dropped on the island.

 

He remembered the island just a few days ago: rich paddies surrounded by lush tropical forests, clusters of bamboo huts by the quiet beach. It was beautiful.

 

When they arrived in the municipal building of Carles, Tyler saw the damage the typhoon left on his former workplace. The second storey was caved in. The remaining usable portion has been converted into a temporary medical centre. The previous health centre has been destroyed by the storm; Tyler was even told seven women gave birth in the community when the typhoon hit the country. The market and the school of Carles were also leveled to the ground.

 

Tyler’s cinder block home was among the few which survived the pounding of typhoon Yolanda. It was fortunate that he found his family safe and uninjured. Tyler didn’t get news about his fellow boarders who left the island to be with their own families during the height of the storm.

 

His team dropped off their supplies in Carles. Tyler had no choice but to pack his bags and leave his adopted home. Before he left, he was approached by residents asking when aid from the US would come. Tyler said he felt helpless as he saw the desperation in the peoples’ eyes. He thought about the homes, belongings and livelihoods lost, the fleeting sense of hope a relief pack can only provide, the impossibility of cleaning up and rebuilding.

 

At that point, Tyler felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility over the community that sheltered him — it was about time he gave back their help.

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