By Peter Ivermee, a member of the disaster response team that went to the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Bopha, the deadly storm that killed over 1,000 people and destroyed or damaged more than 167,295 homes.
We went first to New Bataan, where 10 inches of rain in two hours caused a huge flood that brought a mountainside of boulders and rubble down a river valley, destroying 5,000 homes and leaving 400 dead and 400 missing.
Almost everyone we met had a tragic story.
Daniel Sumbid and his family (pictured right) lost relatives in the storm, and they lost their house and farm. They can’t go back because you can’t dig away a million tons of boulders and mud. It wouldn’t be safe in that location anyway.
They grew bananas. It takes nine months for a banana plant to fruit even if you can find some land to plant it in. So they have no home, no job, no money, no hope. When Samaritan’s Purse showed up with food supplies, they at least got something to keep them going.
I met Rosalina, her husband Diez, and their son Dennis. Rosalina had been a midwife at a local health center. This photograph shows her standing outside what used to be a two-story building, and her place of work.
She cried thinking of her co-workers who are gone.
Ramalon and his whole family were sheltering in their house when the flood hit it. His 10-year-old brother was clinging to their grandparents in terror. The grandparents passed him to Ramalon saying, “You are stronger, try and save him.” Ramalon grabbed his brother and swam through the mud and water. He made it to the bank. He and his brother are alive; all nine of their relatives are gone.
Ana (pictured left) is 7 months pregnant and had gone to the city for a doctor’s appointment. When she came back after the storm her mother and father, with whom she lived, were dead and the house gone along with five other relatives. The only person she has left is her niece who had travelled with her to the city—they just have each other now.
When we reached the East Coast, the damage we saw was extensive and total. Adelaida Ortilano of ADRA, a Samaritan’s Purse ministry partner, told us that in her 23 years of relief work she had never seen anything as bad.
We reached the coast at Bislig, a small town where about 25-30 percent of the roofs were still intact. As we traveled south every roof we saw was damaged. But we didn’t see many roofs, because most were completely gone. About 30 percent of the houses were totally destroyed.
The coconut palms were mostly flattened; in some cases entire hillsides were covered with them like giant matchsticks all lying the same way, felled by one gust of wind. As many as 80 percent of the men worked on the plantations and are now unemployed as well as homeless. Coconut palms take 10 years to grow so the outlook is bleak unless we can come up with a decent livelihoods project.
Cateel was the next town we came to. There was the same total damage, although much of it was gathered into piles in the streets. Part of the cemetery was washed into the sea and the people now won’t eat fish.
In all these towns, each having populations of 7,000-10,000, there is no reliable water supply. We met an army lieutenant who said that she had three water sources and three water trucks and that wasn’t enough for everybody. Samaritan’s Purse is installing a high-capacity community water filter capable of providing 10,000 gallons of clean water per day. Until then, ADRA is distributing jerry cans to 3,200 people so when they meet up with a water truck they’ll have something to put the water in.
There aren’t any toilets or latrines either, so excrement and water supply are moving closer by the day. Diarrhea or even cholera are real concerns.
Samaritan’s Purse worked with local ministry partners to distribute emergency food to 11,500 people and hygiene items to 21,300 storm victims. We supplied our partners with 40 community tool kits that people can use to make repairs to damaged homes. Please pray for the hundreds of thousands of people who were displaced, for those who lost family and friends, and for everyone trying to recover from the typhoon. Pray for ADRA and other Christians as they minister in the aftermath of the storm.