When Disaster Strikes Near, But Not at You
By Kailie Nagrath
I have been getting a lot of inquires from friends and family members who have been hearing about the devastating super typhoon Yolanda. “I am perfectly fine and safe,” I assure the people back home. But I can’t help but feel sad, and even a bit guilty, about all the thousands of people who are not so lucky.
Manila and the surrounding metro area seemed to escape the wrath of this violent typhoon, but the ‘eye’ of the storm struck hard on the southern part of the Philippines. So hard, that Filipinos are calling this the worst typhoon in the island nation’s history. Filipinos are not ones to sensationalize their weather as they have grown accustomed to these powerful tropical storms, living in a land where almost half of the year is considered typhoon season.
Yet many of the southern islands could not have known or prepared for the stormy uproar that struck their land late Friday night into early Saturday morning.
Eastern Islands Hit Hard
The area of the Philippines most affected is the Visayas provinces. Tacloban City in Leyte caught the full force of the typhoon with winds of up to 310kmph (195mph) completely decimating the city. Exact figures are still unavailable but the death toll in that city alone is expected to reach the 10,000 mark. Countless others are suffering from injuries, loss of shelter, food, electricity and clean drinking water. The actual destruction of this storm is so massive it is still being mapped out and the damage and human toll has yet to be fully calculated, but one thing is for sure, this is a disaster on a massive scale.
President Benigno Aquino III declared a “state of national calamity” in a plea to the international community to offer relief efforts.
Manila not Hit but Hurt
Seeing my host country going through this disaster is so heartbreaking. Although Manila was largely unaffected by the storm, the emotional and psychological effects are plainly visible. In a small island nation almost anyone living in the capital has friends, family or relatives in the outlying islands, so everyone is affected. In a culture that is as family-oriented and giving to friends and loved ones as the Filipino culture is, everyone feels personally connected to this tragedy.
The current mood of the city is contrasted sharply to the city I landed in just a few short months ago. A city where I could always find a welcoming smile, a helpful hand to assist me, a friendly face eager to say hello, or a warm smile sent my way. The typhoon has left such sadness in the air that it seems to have washed all the smiles away. I wish I could give back more to the people who have welcomed me to this country, because I have seen first-hand that these are a people who do not think twice to help out someone else in need.
Images Don’t Capture the Devastation
They say a picture speaks more than a thousand words… but none of the images you see can fully capture the magnitude and level of devastation that has hit this country. Nor are there enough words, or even the right words, to explain the wreckage this storm has caused. Lives were lost, families torn apart, and countless people have been left homeless with nowhere to go. Survivors are desperately looking for loved-ones and searching for food and clean water to drink. One can only imagine the desperation these people are feeling.
This morning when I went into the convenience store across the street from me, the man at the counter asked me to donate all of my old clothing. It’s the least I can do, but of course I want to do more. I know there are many people who feel the same way, but need to know how or where they can best help.
How to Help
I would like to pass along this message from the International School of Manila on how best to help at this time. ISM would normally send teams from the school to help assist first-hand but due to the level of devastation and the health risks that is not currently possible.
The best form of aid is financial assistance. If you would like to help out with a donation you can either give directly to ISM’s Disaster Relief Fund or to UNICEF Philippines. Please click on the link to ISM’s fundraising page to see details on how to make your donation:
The people of this country have welcomed me with smiles on their faces everyday and I have learned to love and care for this country and its people. As a guest in this very special land, I know they really need our help right now. It is my hope that anyone who can make a contribution of any kind would do so now in this hour of dire need.