Day 10: Unimaginable Flooding

Today we share with you a story from Pinky, a young woman who survived Typhoon Yolanda despite her entire family being faced with unimaginable flooding that submerged their neighborhood.

“Tanauan is a coastal town in Eastern Visayas about 18 kilometers from Tacloban City. This is my home town where I grew up together with my siblings. We live in Barangay Licod (2 barangays away or approximately about 2.5 kilometers from the seashore).”

On the Eve of Typhoon Yolanda

“The night of November 7, we were all intensely watching the news just so we would know if there are any updates on the approaching typhoon. Signal number 4 was already raised throughout the region but we weren’t experiencing any heavy rains or winds yet. Then we saw on the news that some of the big news anchors from the national television was reporting live in Tacloban to cover the landfall of typhoon Haiyan (locally called Yolanda). I thought to myself, this is something different and this news is pretty big that these people would come down to Leyte just to cover this story. Then came the state of the nation address by the President. He warned everyone to be careful and those leaving in the coastal area should evacuate due to possible storm surges that could reach about 5-10 meters high. As the President was saying this, I kept on imagining that our house is sturdy enough to face the strong winds and our place has never been flooded before plus we are about more than 2 kilometers away from the sea so we should be pretty safe. Or so I thought…”

The Day the Typhoon Made Landfall

“November 8 (4AM)… I was awakened by the loud noise of tin roof banging on our neighbors roof due to strong winds. Ah, Yolanda has finally arrived. A few minutes later, the rest of my family was already up and we were somewhat amazed at first on how strong nature can be. My sister even took some videos of the action where the trees were dancing to the winds command and some of our neighbors roof were being peeled off like paper. Scary but yet amazing.

“It was almost 5AM and the air was cold. It felt nice to lay back in bed and sleep some more. I said to myself, maybe I’ll go back to sleep and snore through the storm. I’m pretty sure it will be over in a few hours! So I went back to bed and tried to sleep. Then I felt something wet and cold at the side of my bed. I immediately stood up to check on it. Water was already leaking through our walls from the ceiling.”

Little did we know that some parts of our roof were already gone due to the strong winds.

“At 6AM, my father was getting restless. He stood guard at our front door looking at what was happening outside. He kept on saying that we should transfer to our neighbor’s house while we still can. But the wind was too strong and debris were flying everywhere that we kept on telling him that it’s not safe to go outside. Then we noticed that our ceiling was already moving. It was shaking as if the wind was trying to pull it out but the house was fighting it off. We immediately decided to pack and evacuate to a much safer place just in case our roof gives in to the winds.”

“Just as we were about to get ready to go out of the house, water started coming inside the house, sipping through the bottom space of our front door. The water was black and it was coming in fast. We had no idea where it came from. We started to panic and my Dad was already shouting that we need to get out. He tried pushing the door open but the water current was fighting back. He kicked the bottom part of the door to create a hole just so we could pass underneath. The water was quickly rising. It was already hip high when we got out of our house. By the time we got to the door of the other house, the water was already chest deep.”

“My Aunt’s house was a bit elevated so the water level inside the house was back to being waist deep and the current was not that strong. We made our way from the kitchen to the sala then to the front door as we watched all the furnitures floating beside us and some of them were already bumping our way. We made it to the front door, water was still waist deep but as I looked at the glass window, the water was already high outside the house (approximately shoulder deep). We tried opening the front door but it was stuck so we had no choice but to go back to the back door and try our luck. The water was slowly rising. By the time we arrived at the kitchen, the water was already chest deep.”

“The younger ones prioritized our elderly and we helped them all climb up the sink in the kitchen in thinking that they’ll be safe at that height. While we were doing this, my sister was shouting that we need to get out of the house and climb up to the roof as the water was still rising. She thought that everyone heard her and since the water was already about shoulder level, Peachy (my sister) was already having a hard time. She dropped her bag and swam to the back door to get out of the house. Then she climbed up to the roof with the aid of the windows. After helping my Dad climb up the sink, I saw my sister going out of the back door. I told everyone that we need to go out and follow Peachy then I led the way.”

As I was about to exit the back door, I looked behind me to see if the rest of the family has followed, but none of them followed me…My family are still inside the house trapped! A different kind of fear has struck me. I felt helpless as if strength was leaving my body.

I thought it was the end, my mind was drifting away. I didn’t realize that i was already under water while still clinging on the window grills. Then I heard a faint voice calling my name. It somehow restored some of my strength that i was able to push myself up to stay afloat.

“Then I heard Peachy shouting. She was the one calling my name. As I answered back she said “Ate, okay na hira, ikaw nala it ada pa ha ubos, paniguro!”… (Ate, they’re okay! They are now up in the roof and you’re the only one left. Climb up now!) I was relieved hearing her say that my family made it up to the roof. It gave me a new strength as I tried pulling myself up to be able to climb the window grills then up the roof. But I was really having a difficult time climbing up. I asked for help from my sister who is literally half my size. With team work, determination, a little bit of miracle and adrenaline rush, my sister was able to pull me up to the roof in just one pull (amazing!).”

“Minutes had passed then I heard a crashing noise just above my head. It was my brother who was stomping on some loose ply wood to create a hole and making a way for me to climb up. With his help, I was able to climb up the higher roof then Peachy followed. Up in that roof I noticed that my Aunt’s roof (iron sheets) was already gone. Only the wooden trusses and ceiling was left.”

“Crossing or more like crawling that roof was unbelievable. Not only that the wind was super strong that I was literally hanging on the trusses for my dear life, the rain was also salty which was hurtful to the eyes and there was zero visibility of the surrounding due to the heavy rain and wind combined that there’s no way of telling if there’s a flying debris coming my way not unless if it was already right in your face. Deadly as it sounds but me, my brother and sister fought hard to survive that day and to cross that roof. Luckily we made it to the next house alive!”

The Storm Slowed

“It was past 11 AM according to the wall clock in our neighbors house. The wind was slowly calming down and the water has now receded. There were other families as well who took shelter in the same house. There were about 30 of us crowding 1 bedroom (the safest part of the house).”

Tanauan 1 Month After Haiyan
Tanauan 1 Month After Haiyan

The Aftermath

“Due to the debris brought forth by the storm surge and a damaged roof, we found ourselves homeless. Our house was a total mess. It was covered in mud and furnitures was either in wreckage or piled on top of another furniture. With the looks of the mud on the walls or the traces of the flood, the water reached up to 10 feet!”

“The succeeding days were no picnic. Our house is situated right next to the town plaza where hundreds of dead bodies were just piled up for days and was eventually buried in mass graves (at the plaza still) on the 5th day after the typhoon. The stench was unbearable that we have to wear face masks even during sleeping just to lessen the foul smell.”

We feared for our lives so most of us can’t sleep anymore at night.

A street that was left impassable for over a week due to immense debris
A street that was left impassable for over a week due to immense debris

“We left Leyte on Friday, exactly 7 days after Yolanda to start anew and to rebuild back our lives. While sitting on the bus I recollected on the series of events that happened to our family in the past week. We have lost almost everything but as long as my family are well and complete then life will always be beautiful. These were my exact thoughts while looking at my family and at my 1 year old nephew smiling as we rode the bus out of Leyte that day. We made it out but we will definitely come back to rebuild everything. With high hopes we will rise again!”

To read Pinky’s Full Story Click here.

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