SPECIAL FEATURE: REMEMBERING SUPERTYPHOON YOLANDA
By Maloney L. Samaco
08 Nov 2017
She was named Yolanda, feminine in name yet super masculine in strength. For she was a Super Typhoon which struck our region Eastern Visayas that uneventful morning on Friday, November 8, 2013.
Yolanda or Haiyan as known internationally has gained infamy as the strongest storm ever known on record to make landfall and the fourth strongest storm ever recorded in the world.
"(Yolanda is) the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall in world history," as quoted by weather website wunderground.com's Dr. Jeff Masters.
We were in Manila on November 5 for the Nutrition National Awards. We were booked for a flight to Cebu on November 6, but changed our ticket to Tacloban instead because Yolanda was set to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility, as we might get stranded in Cebu.
When we landed in Tacloban Airport, the weather was so clear and there were no airpockets at all. The sea was so calm, a clear indication of "calm before the storm." That was one of the last flights that landed Tacloban before the devastation. The following day all air travels were cancelled.
Maasin City fought Yolanda by giving intense warning three days before and implemented forced evacuation on hard-headed residents along the shore and rivers and landslide-prone areas. Disaster risk reduction management council worked immediately.
Everybody worked hand-in-hand including the police, firemen, rescuers, maintenance men, health workers, social workers, and barangay folks.
The US-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) as reference, Masters said that Yolanda's average strength of 195 mph (315 kph) with gusts up to 235 mph (378 kph) during landfall surpassed the previous record set in 1969 by Hurricane Camille, which registered 190 mph (306 kph) winds when it landed in Mississippi in the United States.
However, some storms were stronger but their forces diminished upon hitting the land. Not all storms are at their maximum strength when they landfell.
Considering overall strength, Yolanda is officially the fourth strongest tropical cyclone in world history, according to Masters. He said that the all-time record is still held by Super Typhoon Nancy in 1961 at 215 mph (346 kph), followed by Super Typhoon Violet in the same year at 205 mph (323 kph), and Super Typhoon Ida in 1958 with 200 mph (322 kph).
Yolanda made landfall in Guiuan, Eastern Samar at peak intensity. Interaction with land caused slight degradation of the storm's structure, though it remained an exceptionally powerful storm when it struck Tolosa, Leyte. The typhoon made four additional landfalls as it traversed the Visayas: Daanbantayan then Bantayan Island in Cebu, Concepcion in Iloilo, and Busuanga Island in Palawan.
PAGASA said Yolanda struck Guiuan with maximum sustained winds of 235 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 275 kph.
Presidential Proclamation No. 682, dated November 11, 2013, declared a state of national calamity, affecting Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, and Palawan.
Maasin City and Southern Leyte had zero casualty, but Tacloban and Leyte were not as lucky. It was believed that about 10,000 people perished. Officially 6,340 were confirmed dead and 1,061 were missing. According to UN officials, about 11 million people were affected by Yolanda, leaving several people homeless.
Storm surge was not anticipated and it damaged houses and buildings and swept people away. Tsunami-like waves as high as seven meters engulfed the city trapping several residents.
In our city, we distributed relief to 4,000 families and cleared all roads of trees and debris. I visited evacuation centers the day before and the barangays the day Yolanda struck. I reached the farthest barangay Libertad the afternoon of November 8.
But we helped Tacloban and Leyte amidst our own clearing operations. Their injury was bigger and more brutal. They needed more supporters in their cause to survive.
The wrath of Yolanda caused havoc to thousands of lives and billions of properties in the Visayas region.
Economist Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay estimated the economic loss of Yolanda to be P604 billion whose effects are long term. Official estimates placed the damage at P130 billion. Devastation may have weakened our body but not our spirits. We were down but definitely not out.
Maasin City tasted the fury of Yolanda though not as damaging as in Tacloban. But we suffered blackouts since our source was the geothermal power plant of Ormoc City. Cable television was not available too. But we have to offer something to our constituents at least to alleviate them from the trauma of the strongest typhoon ever.
For weeks there was no electricity. But our constituents wanted to view TV to monitor the news of the typhoon damages especially those of Tacloban and Leyte. So we used a generator set to supply power to our LCD projector and broadcasted TV Patrol every night where thousands would watch the free show at the City Gym.
We showed a free telecast of the Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios Clash in Cotai on November 24. No restaurants showed the fight and at home if you can't buy pay-per-view you have to bear with the delayed TV show. So our citizens from all walks of life from the 70 barangays trooped to the free live telecast we prepared for their entertainment. The City Gym was filled to the rafters by more than 5,000 fans.
There was panic buying in the groceries and stores in Maasin when people from Leyte drove in hordes to buy commodities here. Fuel prices went up as buyers lined up in long queues to purchase crude oil, gasoline and kerosene which were scarce. We inspected these stations to check hording. I warned unscrupulous merchants of deliberately taking advantage of our consumers.
There were reports of prisoners being able to escape from jails of Leyte and were going to Maasin. So we were on red alert and imposed curfew at 12 midnight. Banks also were afraid of looting and robbery as it happened in Tacloban.
We went also to Tacloban and Ormoc handing out donations to Mayor Alfred Romualdez and Mayor Edward Codilla, respectively. Our city was the first LGU to deliver relief goods to Ormoc in cooperation with the Gawad Kalinga three days after Yolanda hit the city. We also sent our rescue team to help in the retrieval operations of cadavers in Tacloban where they were able to retrieve 128 dead bodies and placed inside body bags. Another team was sent to Tacloban to assist DSWD in packing of the relief goods. We also let them borrow our water purifier machine and our fire truck.
The Maasin City Cooperative Development Council handed some 1,000 packs of bodbod, puto, biko, bread, candies and water to evacuees at Tanauan Central School, Tanauan, Leyte. It was our gift for them like the delicacies served during every Misa de Gallo. We made a courtesy call on Mayor Pelagio Tecson, Jr. at the town hall.
We also went to Guiuan, Eastern Samar as far as Solangan Island to extend help to some families. Only very few roofings remained in the buildings as Guiuan was completely swept by Yolanda including the world-class Calicoan surfing resort. Only the Saint Athony de Padua shrine in Solangan and sorrounding houses had minimal destruction. The roofing of the famous Balingiga Church in Eastern Samar was destroyed.
Today is a holiday in Eastern Visayas as the whole region and the nation commemorates the fourth anniversary of the most destructive cyclone in the world that hits our place.
Photo shows the writer and his wife at Anibong, Tacloban after Yolanda where ships were aground due to storm surge.
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