Deadly Storm in the Philippines: “Everything was flying. It was surreal.”

As tropical storm Pablo (International name Bopha) dissipates over the waters off the shores of northern Philippines, survivors, volunteers and government agencies struggle to recover and rebuild from its destructive and deadly rage after sweeping through the island of Mindandao last December 4.

The latest government figures are heart-breaking: 647 are dead, 1,482 are injured with 720 are still missing. On top of which thousands of families have been displaced. With the damage to property and agriculture running into the billions of pesos, typhoon Pablo has become the most destructive storm to ravage the Philippines this year.

Ninorey recalls the day his family endured in the eye of the storm:

A house was completely destroyed in Baganga, Davao Oriental. Photo from @flippy0721

Typhoon Pablo (Int. name Bopha) made landfall at Davao Oriental on December 4, 2012, at around 8-9am. initial reports show footages of strong winds and rising waters. We were bracing for the worst. Then at 9am, the power went down. Immediately, everyone in the family kicked of in emergency mode, stocking all empty containers with clean water, what with the past experiences of Typhoon Sendong.

Winds start to stir so bad that trees were swaying wildly. I tried installing a makeshift wind vane and at least two of them were blown. The last one was made of strong string and light plastic so it withstood the mighty winds. Rain was pouring wildly, and the radio is reporting gradual rise in water levels around rivers and streams in the provinces.

When I was fixing some leaks in our balcony, the wind blew so hard that it was hard to hold the door without being pushed away. The iron roofs started to dance and bounce. (It does sound funny, but when you hear it for real, you'll wet your pants. It is freakin scary). My mom went around the house panicking, and while we tried to calm her, the wind started to whistle. A whistle so deep and horrifying it almost brought us to tears. I thought, man, I only hear those in the movies, and I can't believe I'm hearing it now. I stood as I watched the tarpaulins, the leaves and torn branches blown across the road in front. Everything was flying. It was surreal.

Marie recalls her experience of living through the storm:

Yes, I did experience Typhoon Pablo's strength even if I am here in Davao that sad day of December 4. We're placed under Storm signal Number 2. In here, I heard the rumbling of the winds. I've witnessed the movement of the roofs nearby and also the slamming of the doors. I kept thinking how the typhoon might be like in my hometown where Pablo made its landfall.

Another Filipina blogger ‘Kaloka’, found it hard to believe that typhoon Pablo has ravaged through her hometown while in the past, she was happy that storms rarely visited their place:

All my life, I am always bragging that even if I live and grow up in a tropical country where a least 20 typhoons are expected visitors in a year, my hometown has always been typhoon-free. Isn’t it very liveable? But what happened to the world? Is this now the effect of drastic climate change?

More than a thousand people were staying in this basketball court-turned evacuation center when the roof blew off during the storm. Photo from @imogenwall

Filipina blogger ‘Gagay’ feels a sense of guilt that she was far from her family when they lost their roof as typhoon Pablo swept through their town:

It’s pretty worrisome to think that, whether you believe it or not, the family had the very first ever roofless night in the midst of typhoon just an hour or two after it started pouring out heavy rains and whispering winds. It has washed out the house’s concrete roof. Just imagine how the waters came inside the house after the roof were detached. Though there were no flooding, but the interior of the house, all of our stuff were truly wet. From clothes kept at the shelves in each bedrooms, kitchen wares and to all electronic gadgets at home which include even my father’s mobile phone, they all were bathed by rain waters.

Knowing that incidence and the fact that I am far from my family really caused me to feel guilty. I couldn’t do anything to comfort my family. And because there were no electricity, I can’t call and talk with them on phone as often as I wanted to. I really feel sorry.

In the aftermath of Pablo's destruction, Filipinos from all over the country have mobilized to help out the victims. The internet and social media once more plays an instrumental role in the relief efforts and not just with documenting the horrendous effects of the storm.

Father Joel Tabora, S.J. from the Ateneo de Davao University recounts what they've seen during their relief efforts:

Entering the Municipality of Compostela was like entering a warzone, its hectares and hectares of banana and fruit trees flattened. Even concrete houses were demolished. The GI-sheets of a warehouse for rice were strewn over the fields, its trusses and beams twisted grotesquely. The Assumption Academy of Compostela was 80% destroyed. Its newly built-gymnasium lost its roof. Library books were totally obliterated. Computers and sewing machines had been inundated by waist-high floods. All the school’s administrative records are gone. The convent of Sr. Erlinda Factura, FMA, was similarly destroyed. There, the floods were neck high. Only rooms on the second floor could still be used to provide emergency shelter for teachers. CRs however were not functioning. People there have no food. No potable water. No signal. Electricity is expected to return after at least two months.

Other netizens have joined the call for help, tweeting, blogging and updating their Facebook accounts with messages of support and information on how to help the victims of typhoon Pablo. As the year comes to an end, Christmas of 2012 will definitely be celebrated with a mark of sadness and reflection.

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