x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Agonising wait for family names to appear on the list of survivors

Relatives of people hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines have spoken of their anxious wait to hear news from their loved ones, and of profound grief for the the loss of lives.

Dubai resident Norma Senita, 40, from Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines, is worried about her sister and cousins in Leyte province. Charles Crowell for The National
Dubai resident Norma Senita, 40, from Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines, is worried about her sister and cousins in Leyte province. Charles Crowell for The National

Norma Senita waited for days to hear from her sister and three cousins in Leyte.

“I checked the list of survivors but couldn’t find their names,” said Ms Senita, a nanny and family driver in Dubai.

Her sister, Milagros, 52, and her two nephews, who are 8 and 16, are from the town of Yapad in Leyte, which bore the brunt of the storm.

Her two cousins are from Tacloban, the worst-hit city along the country’s remote eastern seaboard. Another cousin lives in Palo – also in Leyte– which is near the sea.

Some relatives from Manila had flown to Tacloban City on Wednesday to check for updates.

“I’m so happy they are all OK,” Ms Senita said. “The typhoon destroyed their homes but they managed to stock up on supplies.”

Neighbours who do not have relatives working overseas have had to depend on handouts.

“I’m now collecting some relief goods to send to Leyte,” Ms Senita said. “My 10 friends are helping me fill the boxes.”

One box has been filled with used clothing, canned goods and blankets.

“I’m not doing this for my family but for those who badly need our help,” she said. “I just hope it reaches them.”

In Tacloban, some survivors turned to looting shops and warehouses for food, water and other supplies.

“It hurts me, seeing the huge devastation and the hungry people crying for help,” Ms Senita said. “The scale of the destruction is unimaginable.”

Ms Senita, 40, has not visited her native Tacloban for 15 years, which she regrets. She has lived in Dubai for seven years and her annual leave is usually spent in Manila.

“My favourite place is the Santo Nino Church, where I was christened,” she said. “It is severely damaged.”

The distinctive pink Roman Catholic Church withstood the typhoon, but was stripped of its roof in the storm.

rruiz@thenational.ae