Living next to the beach in south Tacloban for many decades, Irma Cruz Roasa, a retired director of nursing, is used to strong storms. Over her lifetime the city has been battered by bad weather. Despite this, she wasn’t prepared for what happened early on the morning of November 8 last year, when a large dredger washed up on the beach just two metres from her house.
“We thought it was a rescue ship”
“It had been raining all night and we knew it was a typhoon signal 3 (the second highest Philippine category of storm warning), but no-one understood what ‘surge’ meant.” Looking out the window that morning with Irma was her daughter, Helen. Helen had delivered a baby the night before at the hospital, but had decided not to stay overnight because she was worried about her mother. She had returned home, despite the bad storm.
The storm intensified overnight – water came pouring through the door so fast that they barely had time to react. It rapidly reached the upper floor, taking all the furniture with it. “We could hear the wind howling and the most of the roof came off… The next thing we knew, we saw a dredger outside! We thought it was a rescue ship sent by the Department of Works and Highways, but then we could hear people on the boat shouting at us to jump.
“Neither of us could swim”
“One of the house helpers kicked through the ceiling. We all got to the roof and I remember standing there in gale-force winds, holding on to the trusses as we waited for the wind to calm. My daughter Helen was the last one to come up. Even though neither of us could swim, we somehow managed to clamber aboard the boat.
“We were there for five hours with all these other people. It was very cold and wet. By the time we left the boat about 200 people had arrived.”
The first few months after the typhoon were extremely harrowing. “That time was sad and unforgettable. Everyone was affected, rich and poor. Dengue was rife because there weren’t enough people to collect garbage”, recalls Irma. And what of the ‘Noah’s Ark’ that sheltered them from the storm? A year after Haiyan, it’s still beside the house. “I wonder how they will remove it?” asks Helen.
Red Cross, committed to the long term response
A year later, thanks to generosity of donors from Ireland and around the world, the Red Cross has built well over 6,000 homes, distributed cash and roofing material to 13,500 households for home repairs and distributed cash to more than 29,000 households as part of the livelihood support programme.