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Eyewitness: fear mounts for those left isolated

Christian Aid's Jessica Dator-Bercilla speaks to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan on the coast of the mainland. But with no way of accessing people on remote islands who were in the path of the typhoon, fear mounts for their wellbeing.

A group of children on a beach in the Philippines

Before leaving for northern Iloilo, I tried to prepare for the devastation I would see. I have worked through many emergencies but when it is your home, it is a different story.

I cried all the tears I could before the plane landed so that I could put on a brave face when meeting people who have lost their loved ones, homes and possessions.

Forgotten islands

So far, the focus has been on the islands first hit by the typhoon, but Haiyan also passed across many small islands and upland communities.

They are so remote that the media will not have access to them. And their stories will not be told. I am writing this so they will not be forgotten.

The Philippines has thousands of these islands, where some of our partners work. Many have beautiful beaches but no mountains to escape the wind or the storm surges.

Our partners were desperate to know how the communities they work with are. But after travelling for hours to get to the nearest port we could not access the islands, as almost all the boats in the municipality were destroyed by the typhoon.

  • ‘If we still had our boats, we know the sea would provide for us. But now that we have lost our houses, our boats, our livelihoods, the future is uncertain.’

Silent courage

Instead, we talked to survivors on the coast of the mainland. All we saw was silent courage. Not a tear was shed by those I spoke to. They were thankful they had survived.

They told us how they tried to escape the incoming waters and how they shuddered at the sound of concrete exploding under the power of the typhoon.

They are surviving on food they could salvage and the generosity of people from the city who have brought extra supplies. But how long will the small amounts they have last?

An elderly man said to me: ‘If we still had our boats, we know the sea would provide for us.  But now that we have lost our houses, our boats, our livelihoods, the future is uncertain.’

Determined to survive

We could feel their spirit; determined to survive. We had to complete our needs assessment without revealing how desperate their situation is.

That determination to live, the hope for the future, the empowered spirit is all they have right now.

In the middle of the chaos and wasteland, in areas where homes have been destroyed for miles around, people showed bravery to move on despite the devastation.

Laundry lined the streets, repairs have started, and children dried the toys and shoes they could find.

Nowhere safe to shelter

And yet, as I left for the airport, a television reporter announced that another typhoon is coming.

I thought of the thousands of people who have nowhere safe to shelter.

My family sent me off with a smile, telling me not to worry. I had to stop my tears from falling.

The national news on the radio kept discussing the first islands that got hit by the typhoon, but still no mention of the smaller islands and upland communities. 

I hope they, too, will be remembered.

How you can help

Please help our partners to reach more vulnerable communities by donating to the Philippines Typhoon Appeal.


Emergencies fund

Help us react quickly to emergencies, saving lives and rebuilding communities.

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