Super Typhoon Haiyan left a trail of destruction as it made its way across the island nation of the Philippines on November 13, 2013. In the wake of the disaster, one of our reporters traveled to the Philippine island of Leyte to talk to the victims of this massive storm and give a firsthand description of the damage. Please enjoy his humble account of the situation in Ormoc City, Philippines.
The damage in Ormoc City is tremendous. The roofs of almost all of the buildings have blown away and window panes are broken. Only a few stores are able to remain open, of those, most have been turned into makeshift street stalls selling what little was salvaged. People who have lost their homes can been seen sleeping in the streets at night and most of the city lights remain extinguished.
Of course, hotels are not open for business. I assume those workers are now sleeping in the streets like so many others. While I stayed the night alongside those who were left homeless by Typhoon Haiyan, I asked, “What do you need the most?”
“We need a place to sleep without worrying” was the most common response. Most would be grateful for a tent or a bed to spread a blanket on. Many people can be seen sleeping atop cardboard every night. When they can’t find cardboard, they sleep directly on the cement and it is far from comfortable. I began to understand their plight after just one night sleeping on the street being bitten by insects and getting woken up by passing rain showers.
The people I encountered also said they need electricity, information, gasoline, and hygiene management. The streets have been turned to darkness except for one small area. Because of an energy shortage, street vendors selling electricity have appeared.
Everyone has come to rely on candle light at night so they have become a precious commodity, making candle vendors a welcome sight on street corners.
There is a service to broadcast the news in the square of Ormoc City, residents intently stared at the screen, hoping for new information.
In addition, only government officials are given priority when refueling, but a long line of cars and motorcycles were lined up hoping to purchase gasoline. I wondered how long they were willing to wait under the blazing sun.
Garbage is deposited everywhere on the street. Flies buzz above the piles, making for unsanitary conditions.
This is just one reporter’s opinion, but I felt that many people missed the simple convenience of a shower or a washing machine. Many people are forced to use the water in front of public toilets to bathe and wash their clothes. I was also allowed to use this precious source of water during my stay.
I was surprised to find out something about the food and water. If you visit the street stalls, meat, fish and vegetables were piled up at each one. This is because there is an abundance of relief supplies from countries all over the world and from friends of the residents of Leyte, so much so that it makes it appear that Ormoc City is a center of fishing and agricultural prosperity. We’re glad to see that the people of Ormoc City have enough to eat and drink, but we understand that they are in need of so much more. We hope the people of Ormoc City and the rest of the Philippines the best in their recovery efforts.