AN IRISH family's Christmas dream came true as they arrived home with their adopted toddler son who miraculously survived the Philippines typhoon by sheltering in a shattered church.
For six agonising days Frank and Michelle O'Mahony feared that after a 10 year fight to adopt a child, they had now seen their baby cruelly snatched away from them. Then, on November 25 -- Michelle's birthday -- the Cork couple found and were united with little 16-month-old Russell in Tacloban in the eastern Philippines.
While Russell was pulled alive from the devastated Tacloban church, it emerged that three other children waiting for adoption had tragically died as the roof was ripped off by the typhoon causing heavy rafters to collapse on those sheltering inside.
The exhausted couple from Whitechurch were cheered as they arrived home with the toddler at Cork Airport via Amsterdam after a month-long emotional rollercoaster in the Philippines.
The family were waiting with teddy bears, balloons and sweets.
"It is our dream come true. It is all we ever wanted for Christmas," Michelle said as she proudly hugged little Russell.
"This is the best Christmas present we could ever have hoped and dreamed for. It is an absolute miracle."
The young mother, who fought back the tears, said they never gave up hope despite being horrified as Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines.
In a cruel twist of fate, the typhoon struck exactly seven days after the couple were told they could finally adopt Russell and were making arrangements to bring him back to Ireland.
The couple were appalled as they watched TV news reports of Haiyan's violence with the typhoon being the most destructive ever recorded, killing over 6,000 people in the Philippines alone.
Tacloban, little Russell's home city, was virtually wiped off the map by the raging winds and storm surge.
Michelle's brother, Mark, said their entire extended family waited with bated breath for a week as the young couple flew to the Philippines and scoured the storm-savaged island for any news of their little son.
"It was absolutely terrible. They got the news that they could adopt Russell and bring him back to Ireland just one week before the storm hit," said Mark.
"Then they got the news that Russell was missing."
Frank and Michelle immediately flew to the Philippines and began an agonising wait for news.
Incredibly, five days after they arrived they received word that the little boy was safe and well.
"He survived because the people caring for him had evacuated him and other children and placed them for shelter inside a church. It is the only thing that protected them from the storm that destroyed the rest of the island," Mark explained.
"They found him on November 25, Michelle's birthday. It was the best Christmas present anyone in our entire family could have asked for," he said.
By Ralph Riegel