Nov 11, 2013

    A strand of hair and death of hope

    Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

    WHENEVER residents of Tacloban city look up in the sky, and hear the rumble of military planes landing on the runway, they see a glimmer of hope. Around them, they see only death.

    As the typhoon, which might end up claiming up to 10,000 lives, began wreaking havoc in Central Visayas, Tacloban was brought to its knees.

    "It was like World War Z," said one stranded passenger. "Everywhere we look, we see dead bodies on the streets."

    One couple said they wanted nothing but to keep their four children together amid the storm's onslaught. Now Marvin and Loreta's brood has been reduced to only one. Mr Marvin Isanan, a security officer at the Tacloban Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said he took his family with him to the airport on Friday for shelter from the typhoon.

    But storm surges inundated the entire airport located near the coastline. The flood reached the ceiling of the airport offices, drowning people inside. The next day, Mr Isanan found himself weeping as the bodies of his two daughters were recovered.

    "I even kept a strand of my daughter's hair. When she was found, we saw her hair tangled in the grills," he said, sobbing.

    While the smell of death was everywhere, hope emerged with the cries of a newborn child. The mother, Ms Riza Jaro, will name her baby girl Yoonadale, after the super typhoon's local name, Yolanda.

    The 18-year-old mother and her relatives chanced upon a group of military rescuers carrying a folding bed. Immediately it was used to carry her to a makeshift medical station at the airport where she went into labour.

    Before this, she had not been able to find a hospital for the delivery of her first-born. All hospitals, pharmacies and health centres had been shut down as the storm approached.

    "The devastation here is absolute," Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II told reporters after he and his group landed at the battered Tacloban airport. The C-130 military plane that carried them also brought relief supplies and equipment.

    Some foreign help is on its way. The Singapore Red Cross (SRC) is contributing emergency relief supplies worth S$100,000 for survivors and a team of volunteers will leave for the Visayas region to help distribute them. The Singapore Government will also donate S$50,000 through SRC.

    Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has written a letter of condolence to Philippine President Benigno Aquino.