Thursday, April 26, 2007

Narrow Escape: A CI Staff Member Recalls Typhoon’s Wrath

The devastation of Typhoon Durian is apparent in one neighborhood.

Time may heal wounds, but the scars of Typhoon Durian may last a lifetime…

When news that Typhoon Durian was about to come ashore in the Philippines, Tony Lorcha, communications coordinator for our Legazpi, Philippines, agency, and his family did the only thing they could...they faced the storm.

This is his account of that fateful event just a few months ago.

News about Durian had been spreading and it made my family fretful. First, we live in a village located in the typhoon belt and near a volcano, which places us in the path of flooding and threats from volcanic eruption. Second, our house is near the waterway and in case water rises, our place would certainly be flooded. And third, we were anxious on the stability of our house, since the wall is made only of plywood and the roof is made of corrugated metal.

When Durian made a landfall, it caused severe damage to infrastructure, houses, crops, and other properties. The storm battered our village for seven hours. It left our house completely destroyed, including the small vending store that served as my parent’s source of livelihood. We were lucky to get out before it collapsed.

Left with no other option, my family faced the wrath of the roaring winds and heavy rains outside. We crossed the already flooded area in our village and we managed to move to our new but only small concrete house, which is still under construction. We felt a little relief when we got there.

At one point, we heard cries from outside as people were screaming about the flood. The big volume of water triggered a loosening of the volcanic ash and it came tumbling down toward us along with water, sand and boulders, causing people to panic.

I went outside to have a look. I was shocked at what I saw. And I felt fear. A number of people were running fast along the streets, terrified. My parents, siblings, and the rest of our neighbors were deeply frightened by what was happening too. From our house, I could see the raging floodwater heavily flowing down from the rice fields and riverbanks.

One of my relatives, who went along with the crowd, returned and told us that the bridge that connects our village with another was destroyed. We were trapped.

Luckily, the waters and debris moved in a different direction and we were saved. But for two days we were isolated in our village. We had no food but several fathers salvaged pigs that had been carried away by the floods and that saved us from hunger.

Some of my colleagues were worried about us because they had heard the bad news. One friend told me I was listed as missing on the radio. For two days, I could not confirm that my family and I were safe because all communications were down. As soon as I could, I sent a text message to several people to let them know that we were safe…that we were alive!

Their worries for my family and me were finally over. After that, I joined other staff to begin helping sponsored families and gathering data about the destruction of our communities.

I thank God that my family is safe and nobody was hurt. We’re now starting to cope with what has happened, and trying to leave behind whatever scars this disaster has brought to us.

Losing one’s house, especially a source of livelihood, is depressing. But we won’t lose hope. Amidst these things, I strengthened my resolve to be stronger for my family and for the other families who suffered the loss of loved ones and property.

With the help of many generous donors from around the world, the affected people, including my family, are now starting to rebuild.

Tony Lorcha, upper right corner, with his family.

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