Day 16: Interview with Angus Walker – International News Correspondent

Angus arrived in Tacloban on November 10th and had no choice but to sleep in what was left of the airport overnight, in hopes that the following day transportation and news would assist him in beginning his reporting of the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.

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As he explained in his blog just a few days after his arrival, Angus’s first reaction to the island of Leyte was disbelief:

“My first sight of the dreadful devastation was from the window of the Air Force aircraft that brought us here, we all fell silent. It was difficult to comprehend. The hillsides until last Friday were always covered with thick jungle, now you see bare tree trunks bristling along the ridge overlooking the city. Nature’s power destroying the beauty of this place along with the buildings.”

When you arrived, what were the first things going through your mind?

My first thoughts were that this was a lot more remote and underdeveloped compared to Japan, where I been on the ground in the NE coastal areas heaviest hit by the 2011 Tsunami and earthquake.

As you drove through San Jose, the neighborhood outside the airport, were you shocked by the number of casualties?

I was at first shocked by the casualties lying in the road, but then I had some sympathy for the authorities who were in the same position as anyone else, transport and infrastructure smashed, phones dead, and power off, so no easy way to getting organized immediately after a massive disaster.

In your past experience, how soon was “order” restored in disaster areas?

I thought it took at least a week for “order” to be restored.

How did the access to transportation compare to previous disasters you covered?

Access to transportation was far worse than in Japan or China, where I have covered earthquake damage. In Japan a huge military effort was launched immediately and roads were soon clear. Fuel was the major problem and always will be when deliveries cannot pass blocked roads and petrol pumps have no power. Petrol becomes the number one commodity and most valuable currency, money is largely worthless.

What shocked you the most about your time in Tacloban?

The number of dead children did shock me, families are traditionally large in the Philippines and so there were many, many young casualties. I was also shocked by the horrific wait for aid and medical help. I watched volunteer medics amputating limbs on a desk in a partly demolished building, they had also carried out two caesarians that day.

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What was the biggest challenge you encountered in covering Typhoon Yolanda?

The biggest challenge for us as a TV crew was out own safety, our own self sufficiency and just the painful logisitics of managing to power and run kit to broadcast. There’s no point being there unless you can broadcast and show people what’s needed. Then of course there’s the dreadful decision: where do you start, wherever you look there’s awful suffering. So you have to focus on simply telling people factually what happened and speak to people affected so they can tell their own stories.

In the closing of Angus’s blog from Tacloban on November 14th, he said:

“Buildings can be rebuilt, roads can be cleared and power restored but it’ll take many, many years to repair lives here.”

Truly, One Year After Yolanda, lives are still being repaired.

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