Sunday, July 15, 2007

Typhoon Remy


The worst tragedy has hit Bicol. Only a couple of months since the devastation of Milleniyo and a new typhoon strikes only to take the ash that all had thought Mt. Mayon had ceased to emmit, and turn it into a horrific mudslide that wiped 10 barungays off the map. (They were completely buried in mud.) Link to first hand account of disaster

Even after hearing all these statistics, it's easy to remain detached. Then, I started hearing stories about Bicol volunteers being up to their knees in water and having their windows broken, roofs torn off and being deprived of all prior securities received as a peace corps volunteer: clean water, electricity, food, shelter. They were suddenly in the same situation as everyone else and no way to get out of it. Eventually, the volunteers were moved to an evacuation center, but I'm sure the days of and shortly after the storm where some volunteers had not been heard from at all was enormously scary.

I visited the very town hit worst by the typhoon, Santo Dimingo just a week prior to the storm. I was stunned. It had been a cloudless weekend of swimming, hiking and playing Scrabble. I could see Mt. Mayon across the bay in its entirety from their wrap-around porch. It was hard to imagine the heavily wooded area with so many long winding, steep roads having been easy to pass once the mudslides started. Apparently, all the roads were blocked and could only be traveled by foot. And knowing most people in Santo Domingo lived by the sea and depended on it for their livelihood, I knew the storm/mudslide would cause more than damage to their living conditions but their very survival.

And after meeting several people, jeepney and trike drivers the week before when I arrived at 3 am in the pitch darkness in a jeepney, without speaking the local language and only have a vague notion of where I was going, people approached me and gathered in a group discussing how best to get me to where I needed to go. They went out of their way to help me...I wonder where those kind people are now and if they're safe.

Some volunteers lost their roofs and many were flooded out of their homes and evacuated to Naga City, the nearest main city. There was no power for a month and as of 1/20/07 there is still no phone lines operating in most cities in the areas worst hit by the storms. The volunteers spent many weeks volunteering at emergency sites playing at shelters with the children. They too were receiving emergency food rations at one point.


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