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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Typhoon Survivor: “Tell My Family I’m Alive.”
Survivors describe the scenes of devastation after Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines, killing thousands.

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

LEYTE, PHILIPPINES (ANS) -- Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan are sharing their desperate need for food and medicine after losing everything in the storm.

Street scene in destroyed Tacloban. “I've never seen such a violent force that destroyed everything in its path. It's really large scale. It's immense,” said Aaron Aspi, WV Philippines Emergency Communications Specialist.
{Photo by Mai Zamora}

According to a story by Britain’s Sky News, one woman, eight months pregnant, described through tears how her 11 family members vanished in the storm - which devastated parts of the Philippines - including two daughters.

“I can't think right now. I am overwhelmed,” she said.

Erika Mae Karakot, a survivor on Leyte island, said “Please tell my family I'm alive. We need water and medicine because a lot of the people we are with are wounded. Some are suffering from diarrhoea and dehydration due to shortage of food and water.”

Sky News reported another woman said, “I have no house, I have no clothes. I don't know how I will restart my life. I am so confused. I don't know what happened to us. We are appealing for help. Whoever has a good heart, I appeal to you.”

Aid agencies have warned that many of the 480,000 people whose homes have been destroyed by the bludgeoning force of the cyclone face a desperate battle to survive.

“Everything is gone. Our house is like a skeleton and we are running out of food and water. We are looking for food everywhere,” said Jenny Chu, a medical student in Leyte.

The birth of a baby girl amid the devastation of the typhoon has provided a rare moment of joy for survivors.

Sky News said Bea Joy Sagales was born at the airport in Tacloban, the city where officials fear at least 10,000 people have perished.

Her mother Emily Ortega, 21, was in a shelter when the storm flooded the city.

She clung to a post to survive and managed to reach the relative safety of the airport, where a military doctor assisted with the birth.

Cheers broke out in the terminal when it became clear the birth - described as “near miraculous” by officials - had been a success.

In Tacloban, survivors have been scavenging for food and looting shops in order to stay alive, witnesses say.

“Tacloban is totally destroyed. Some people are losing their minds from hunger or from losing their families,” high school teacher Andrew Pomeda, 36, said as he warned of the increasing desperation of survivors.

“People are becoming violent. They are looting business establishments, the malls, just to find food, rice and milk. I am afraid that in one week, people will be killing from hunger.”

Sky News said witnesses described how survivors are forming long lines at aid stations, waiting desperately for handouts of rice and water.

Some sit and stare, covering their faces with rags to keep out the smell of the dead.

Lieutenant Colonel Fermin Carangan, of the Philippine Air Force, said he and 41 officers were sheltering in their airport office when “suddenly the sea water and the waves destroyed the walls and I saw my men being swept by waters one by one.”

He was swept away from the building and clung to a coconut tree with a seven-year-old boy.

Carangan added, “In the next five hours we were in the sea buffeted by wind and strong rain. I kept on talking to the boy and giving him a pep talk because the boy was telling me he was tired and he wanted to sleep.”

He finally saw land and swam with the boy to a beach strewn with dead bodies.

Sky News reported Carangan said, “I think the boy saved my life because I found strength so that he can survive.”


Reporting a story for Presbyterian News Service (PNS), Jerry L. Van Marter said Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is consulting with its ecumenical partners on how best to begin relief efforts.

Communications were out throughout the weekend in the Philippines and immediate relief efforts are being hampered by the sheer extent of the destruction.

Local sources and international news agencies report severe destruction with damaged roads and buildings, downed power lines and telecommunications and flooded villages.

PNS said damage to airports and roads is severely limiting access to the hardest-hit areas. A report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states that roundtrip travel on the only cleared road which connects the airport to the Tacloban currently takes about six hours.

PNS said the initial response will include the provision of non-food items, material resources, drinking water, emergency shelter kits and cash-for-work-programs.

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Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "A Sheltered Life."

Additional details on "A Sheltered Life" are available at Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at

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