TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte — Samar and Leyte took the full force of the world’s most powerful typhoon that struck the Central Visayas region early this month, and it brought death, misery and destruction, but the two provinces and its people are slowly getting back on its feet and taking small steps toward recovery.
Yedda Marie Romualdez, wife of Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, hand out relief goods to typhoon victims.
Government agencies have started to function, electricity is lighting up homes in some areas, public transportation is back, and the radio is airing music and giving people news.
“The banks are open. The stores and other commercial establishments are back in business. Everywhere you hear people hammering nails and sawing wood as they rebuild their homes,” Tacloban City Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin said.
“The city council is now preparing a master rehabilitation plan for the city,” Yaokasin said.
But Samar and Leyte is still covered with debris. Homes, buildings and public infrastructure were flattened, it would take months and years to rebuild and repair the damage, which was estimated to run into billions of pesos.
The number of people killed has reached more than 5,000, but retrieval teams scouring the affected areas were picking up bodies that they quickly buried in mass graves. More than 1,500 people were reported missing and the number of injured was estimated at more than 24,000.
City Administrator Tecson John Lim called on the people to help rebuild the city by taking care of their surrounding and by simply cleaning their homes, yards, the street in front of their houses.
“Bit by bit we will rise again,” he said as he announced that the telecommunication companies have resumed operations and the airport has been operational with 10 flights daily for Manila and Cebu.
|Photos from top to bottom show life getting back to normal at the market and the city streets. RONALD REYES
Lim said the hum of life is back in the public market, the fruit and vegetable stores, the lechon stalls,the cargo forwarders, the gas stations and the vulcanizing shops.
“Distributrion of relief goods continue. Now, we are coordinating with donors giving relief goods directly to our constituents,” Tecson said.
Leonida Becerrel, a 42-year-old mother of eight whose husband was killed and their house ruined during the typhoon spoke in behalf of many of her neighbors who said they will just pick up the pieces and start again.
“I am not leaving Tacloban. I have nowhere else to go. This is my home. We will start our lives again. But we need all the help we can get from the world,” she said.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it has a total of $301 billion assistance for Eastern Visayas, which will be turned over to the government.
Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said rebuilding the city will require careful planning, especially in locating to safer grounds and constructing stronger structures.
“We have to move on. Yes, we were knocked down, but we are beginning to stand up. I have complete faith on my people,” Romualdez said. “We will build stronger buildings and infrastructure in higher and more safer grounds.”
In the town of Palo, strong winds blew away the roof of the centuries-old Palo Cathedral but seven new priests were ordained inside the church on Monday amid the ruins.
Palo Archbishop John Du said the new priests were eager to get into the service and are now involve in extending help to refugees and blessing the bodies in mass burials.
“We may have lost everything but our faith is becoming stronger than ever. No storm or typhoon can destroy our resolve to have faith in Jesus,” Du said.
In Surigao City in Mindanao, southeast of Tacloban across the Leyte Gulf and the Surigao Strait, hundreds of refugees fleeing the disaster have found refuge in the Fruitful Harvest Church.
Fruitful Harvest Church Administrator Charles Sickles, an American pastor from Texas, who is now a resident of the city, said the refugees arrived in batches but donations from the people of Surigao keep pouring in and the City social welfare office were providing them food, clothes and medicines.
“I am happy that Surigao City government through Mayor Ernesto Matugas visited our church and extended assistance to survivors who sought shelter in our church,” Sickles said.
Among the survivors was Ruel Ytac, who lost his 23-year-old wife and four-year-old daughter during the typhoon. He was headed for Camarines Sur, where he planned to start a new life.
Ytac, a fisherman and boat maker, said he has no more reason to stay in Tacloban and wanted a new life in his hometown in Camarines Sur.
In San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, south of Surigao, burglars broke into a church’s cashier office and stole P300,000 donations for the typhoon victims, the Agusan del Sur police office said.
San Francisco Chief of Police Sr. Insp. Ephraim Detuya said police officers have arrested a boy, who pointed to a certain “Paquito” as the the robber. “We have launched a manhunt for Paquito,” Detuya said. With Alvin Guanzon