x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Disaster victim relatives say they feel helpless

Filipinos and Indonesians in the UAE speak of their fears and anguish about what is happening to their families back home

No news is bad news when you are thousands of miles away and disaster has struck back at home, but even when the telephone call comes through it does not ease the feelings of dread and fear felt by those with relatives hit by storms or earthquakes. Here, expats from Indonesia and the Philippines tell their stories.

Ms Villaster, a hairdresser in Abu Dhabi, has not been able to contact her brother in Cagayan, 600km north of Manila. "I am really worried about my younger brother who lives with his wife and two children," she said. "I have been trying to reach him since Monday, but there isn't any phone signal yet." When Typhoon Parma struck on Saturday, swaths of rice and corn were laid to waste at farms in her hometown of Isabela, 375km north-east of Manila. "Although our home was not flooded and my three children are safe, I feel bad for my countrymen because the farms are their livelihood," she said. Her two other brothers, who live in Pasig, Manila, felt the force of Typhoon Ketsana on September 26. "Their home was completely flooded," she said. "They lost all their belongings. Most of their furniture and appliances had to be thrown away."

Ms Fercol the Philippines last year to work as a housemaid in Abu Dhabi. Her four children, aged 11, eight, seven and three, were left in the care of her brother. She received a call from her mother on Sunday in their hometown of Ballesteros, Cagayan. The family home was flooded and there was debris everywhere. "I pity my children," Mrs Fercol said. "My mum said they don't have enough food and my aunt's clothing business was greatly affected. "My aunt's rice fields were flooded and I'm sure the prices of goods will go up. I wish I could help my family."

A housemaid in Al Ain, who is from Ilagan, Isabela, Mrs Guyod received a text message on Sunday from her 23-year-old daughter. "My eldest daughter said the typhoon ripped off roofs and blew them away," she said. "The roads and houses were heavily flooded." Mrs Guyod also has a 21-year-old daughter and three sons, aged 17, nine and six. She raised them after her husband died. Mrs Guyod said she feared for their safety because their hometown was near Tuguegarao City, one of the areas worst hit by Typhoon Parma. "Our house was not submerged in water and they're safe," she said. "But I feel helpless since I can't do anything from here."

In Indonesia, an earthquake struck Padang last week, killing at least 1,100. The mayor of the Padang Pariaman district, Muslim Kasim, said 80 per cent of the houses were destroyed, and roads and bridges were wrecked. Landslides covered a number of villages.

A geologist at an oil and gas company in Dubai, Mr Sarkawi is originally from Bukittinggi, 90km from Padang. "My family and relatives are all OK, but one of my friends passed away last week," he said. "They found her a day after she was trapped inside a building that collapsed in Padang."

Mr Spardi, the head of the purchasing department at an oil and gas company in Abu Dhabi, said his parents and two sisters lived 100km from Padang. "All my relatives are safe but many people need to be evacuated," he said. Mr Spardi said he was finally able to contact two friends in Padang earlier this week. They are both safe, but some of his friends' houses were slightly damaged by the earthquake, he said. * The National