Typhoon Haiyan - Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan survivor: 'My priorities? Find shelter, food and water'


By Action Against Hunger

Jan 23 2014

Sixty year-old Geronima Merales had spent her entire life in the same house in the village of Tanawan, the house in which her mother had lived before her. But just a few kilometres south of Tacloban, Tanawan lay directly in Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction path.
On the road between Tacloban and Tanawan, everything has been destroyed. With winds of more than 300 km/h, powerful storm surges completely submerged the village, washing hundreds of houses and livelihoods away.
Geronima no longer has a home, and having lost everything, she is now living in a makeshift home with the other 14 members of her family.

Staying put in Tanawan

"I want to stay here,” she said. “I want to rebuild my house. Even though the debris and devastation all around is a constant reminder of the huge waves that nearly killed us, this is our piece of land forever.”

Surrounded by three of her grandchildren (opposite), she explains how her family must now find shelter in what remains of their home: corrugated sheets of metal with two boards for walls, a stretched tarpaulin for a roof and a few bits and pieces they have been able to recover from the rubble: “we found some of our belongings more than 200 metres from our house!"

The devastating arrival of the typhoon

"As the typhoon approached, we fled to a brick house that was stronger than ours. But even there the water flooded in, rising up to our chests. There was only one floor so it was impossible to climb any higher to escape the water. Everyone held on as tightly as they could and thought only of survival. I clung on to my little girl, Arianese, who is unable to walk. Several times I told myself that I could not hold on much longer and that I would have to let go or we both would die. But we are alive."
"We then went to an evacuation centre but this had also been destroyed, so we returned to begin rebuilding. We are finding things to eat here and there... The local authorities distributed 3kg of rice per family yesterday. There are 14 of us, so it will not last very long. But, aid has started to arrive here and we are trying to get by.”

Unsafe water and the spread of disease

“We all got sick just after the typhoon had passed. My little son, Yentsé, has had a fever and diarrhoea for three days. We went to the health centre, but they had no drugs left. There is a water pump not far from the house, but we don't think the water is safe to drink. This is probably how Yentsé got sick. We are now forced to travel a long way up the mountain to fetch clean water.”

Our priorities

“Today, our priorities are to build a real shelter to protect us from the rain and to find enough water and food for the family. Little by little we will rebuild the house, but for that we will need help. My son is a motorcycle driver, but his bike is now broken so we have no means of earning a living. Even if we had money, there are no markets. Without the donations and distributions, there is nothing."
Action Against Hunger is on the ground in Tacloban and Capiz, providing urgent assistance to hundreds of thousands of families like Geronima’s as they come to terms with the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

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Photo credits: © Daniel Burgui & L. Grosjean