Revelstoke’s small Filipino community has been watching the news intently the last few days ever since a massive typhoon destroyed a large portion of the country last Friday.
“I feel lucky. I talked to my wife – we feel thankful no one was hurt in our family. I feel thankful because I’m in Canada now,” said Gengy Detorres. “I cried when I see the news. Could you imagine being without food, without home, without water. You feel hopeless.”
The official death toll for Typhoon Haiyan was about 1,000 as of press time, but officials in the Philippines feared it was much higher – at least 10,000, and likely more.
The super typhoon – regarded as one of the strongest storms ever recorded –made landfall in the central Philippines early Friday morning, with winds of up to 379 kilometres per hour. It brought with it 15 metre high waves and up to 400 millimetres of rain.
According to news reports, about nine million people have been affected by the typhoon, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Entire cities have been destroyed. A news release by the Philippines branch of the Red Cross laid out the extent of the devastation and the challenges being faced to provide aid.
“This area has been totally ravaged”, said Sebastien Sujobert, head of the ICRC office in Tacloban, one of the hardest hit cities. “Many lives were lost, a huge number of people are missing, and basic services such as drinking water and electricity have been cut off.”
There was also, he said, extensive damage to other infrastructure, and communication was difficult for those working to aid the stricken population. Both the Philippine Red Cross and the ICRC offices in Tacloban had been damaged, forcing staff to relocate temporarily. “To make matters worse, the security situation is tense. People here need every type of aid.”
On Monday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared a state of national calamity.
Revelstoke’s Filipino community largely came here as Temporary Foreign Workers to work at fast food restaurants like Tim Horton’s and A&W. Many have stayed in the community.
Laarni Iaccino moved here three years ago and is now married into a Revelstoke family.
She said her family in Cebu was OK. She spoke to her family a few days after the storm, when power was returned to their home.
A sign of the strength of the storm was that several trees on her family farm that had survived other typhoons were uprooted. Fortunately, that is the worst that happened to her family.
“It’s really sad. We just had the earthquake, and then there’s another typhoon,” she said. “People haven’t recovered yet, and there’s another calamity coming. It’s too much for them.”