As hundreds of families crowded the road towards Tacloban airport, pleading for a place on a plane out of the the destroyed city, Carlito Gaytos strode past the those desperate to escape and headed towards the shell of what was left behind after the storm passed.
Carlito had brought nothing with him except the description of his daughter Carizza Gaytos, who has been missing since the storm battered the city to pieces. “I’m here for my daughter, I don’t know where she is,” he said. “We haven’t heard from her since before the storm. We are so worried but I came here because I just have to know, is she dead or is she alive?”
The 46-year-old, from neighbouring Samar island, had managed to get a seat on one of the first commercial flights from Manila to the wrecked Tacloban airport. His house in Eastern Samar has also been damaged but it is still standing. And he wants his 18-year-old daughter home.
Carlito said: “She is a medical technology student here in Tacloban. She was living somewhere in the downtown area. I am not sure where to start. She was doing really well here. We need to find her. Her mother is waiting for her.”
Carlito headed to the Red Cross welfare desk set up on the site of Tacloban City Hall. The team of volunteers have been logging reports of missing people and working to reunite those separated during the disaster.
Red Cross programme manager Ryan Jopia, said “Many people still just don’t know what has happened to their friends and family – people were separated during the disaster but also people from outside the area are coming here to find the ones they have lost,” he said.
While Carlito waits and hopes for news, others are more fortunate, though no one is untouched by the storm.
On the road to Tacloban airport on Tuesday, two sisters were reunited by chance as they walked through the debris. The women were overcome with emotion as they recognised each other through the driving rain. But the relief turned to despair when the younger sister realised her husband was not with the rest of the family and has not been seen since the storm.
Another relative who was with the sisters said: “She thought her husband would be with her sister but he isn’t. They are worried he didn’t survive.”
To contact the Irish Red Cross Restoring Family Links services please email firstname.lastname@example.org call (01) 6424600.
Anyone wishing to donate to the Irish Red Cross ‘Typhoon Haiyan’ appeal can do so online at www.redcross.ie; by phone: 1850 50 70 70; or by cheque made out to ‘Irish Red Cross’ and marked ‘Typhoon Haiyan’ and sent to Irish Red Cross, 16 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.
By Nichola Jones, Red Cross in Tacloban