Tuesday, 19 November 2013

by Chua Zi, Form 4 Science 1, Class of 2014


"All systems are down. There is no power, no water, nothing. People are desperate."


More than a week has passed since the strongest storm to make landfall ever recorded hit the Philippines. Yet, there remains a smell of dead bodies and lawlessness in the air.

On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda, made its first landfall in Guiuan in Eastern Samar at winds of 195 mph. It barreled through Leyte and Samar Island, causing catastrophic damage, with Tacloban city being one of the worst affected areas. A death toll of at least 3,600 people has been agreed on. The UN estimates that about 11 million people have been affected, most left homeless. The Red Cross estimates 25,000 people are missing.

Much of Guiuan has been destroyed with many of the structures being flattened to debris. Schools, homes, churches and all the crops have been wiped out. 

The damage was mostly caused by storm surges of up to 5-6 meters. In Leyte, the Tacloban Airport, which was located on a low-lying peninsula was destroyed by storm surges up to two stories high. The Tacloban City Convention Center which was supposed to serve as an evacuation shelter was instead submerged, drowning many of its residents. Many other ‘safe’ buildings crippled under the unprecedented strength of Haiyan’s winds.

“Why have they not recovered the bodies here? It’s reeking badly.”

By a couple of days, starvation has set in and survivors are searching for food among the wreckage. They climb over debris while covering their noses with the fronts of their shirts to subdue the stench of the decomposing bodies that lie along the roads like “oversized dolls.” Tacloban Airport reopened but did not offer much hope to survivors looking to escape the apocalyptic landscape.

Looters are rampant, breaking into malls and pharmacies, leaving nothing. Some of them possess firearms and in acts of panicked desperation, attack the trucks that bring aid. “The looting is not criminality. It is self-preservation,” says Tacloban city administrator Tecson John Lim. 

In some areas, local prisoners have either escaped or been allowed to save themselves while at the same time, the police force has dwindled. Violence ensues and rape cases have been reported. A state of anarchy could very well be induced in such circumstances.

In need of water, survivors have also resorted to digging up underground water pipes. In need of proper care and sanitation, they are at high risk of dying of typhoid, cholera, hepatitis or infection.



Aid is being sent to affected areas, mainly to Tacloban via the reopened airport, but survivors in more remote areas are worried that they are being neglected. Guiuan, despite being the first region to be hit by Haiyan’s record-breaking winds, was cut off for days and received no aid. Efforts are still being hampered in terms of logistics — roads are inaccessible due to mountains of debris, communication systems are down and there is limited or no electricity.

At first, action was frustratingly slow due to a widespread lack of supplies, a steep drop in security in affected areas and overall government inaction. Efforts only started moving more quickly starting last Friday after international ships, aircraft and more military provisions made their way into the islands, a whole week after the first landfall.

President Benigno Aquino has received criticism of Manila’s lack of preparation for the storm and the slow relief effort on his government's part. “Nobody imagined the magnitude [of the disaster] this super-typhoon brought on us,” he defends. 

Much of the Philippines is low-lying and the Filipinos are a community accustomed to all kinds of natural disasters. They were warned by meteorologists days beforehand that there was a storm brewing and moving towards them. The impact of Typhoon Haiyan raises the question of why they were so shorthanded this time round. “People didn’t know about the storm surge. The government should have said ‘You’re going to have big waves, tsunamis’,” says Richard Gordon of the Philippine Red Cross. 

About a million people were evacuated, but the typhoon’s winds battered down almost all preparations.

We will be collecting the following items from 18th to 29th November at the Sick Bay in the Cempaka Cheras Main Office to be donated via the Red Crescent Society of Malaysia to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

1. Blankets
2. Warm Clothes (jackets, sweaters, preferably waterproof/resistant)
3. Candles/Matches
4. Bottled Water
5. Canned Food (can be opened without a can opener)
6. Energy Bars/Dry Biscuits

Any food that requires cooking is not required as there is no water or electricity in the affected areas.

Monetary donations will not be accepted in school but if your parents would like to donate they can do so directly to the Red Crescent Society. This form of donation is highly encouraged.

Your contribution no matter how big or small will help save lives. 

Let's do our part Cempakans. #CempakaCares



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