Tuesday 16 January 2018

'My two-year-old son was swept out of my arms'

Wayne Hay

THe tears streamed down Catherine Balila's face as she surveyed the devastated ruins that were once her home.

"I thought it was the end of the world," she said, remembering the moment the sea, normally 200 metres from her neighbourhood, entered the single storey building in which she and her family lived in the once-bustling Philippine city of Tacloban.

"We really wanted to get out of the house because the water was coming in. I have three kids and I didn't know what to do."

As a five-metre surge of water pushed as far as a kilometre inland, Mrs Balila's husband knew his next step. Climbing into the roof void he pulled his family to safety, tearing a hole in the roof covering to allow in the air.

They were the lucky ones. Around Tacloban yesterday there lay the dreadful evidence that many had not been so fortunate.

From outside the city's airport, where hundreds of desperate survivors had gathered for handouts of food and water, a road ran two miles to the city's centre. Along its path are now dotted scores of disfigured bodies – some lying alone, covered in sheets or corrugated iron from rooftops; others in groups of five or six, huddled together on the side of the tarmac.

Amid the human tragedy lie bloated, blackened animals – corpses of pigs and dogs, putrifying in the tropical sun and 34-degree heat.

And all around Tacloban there are people walking somewhere – because cars, motorbikes and fuel are difficult to get hold of and roads are still choked with debris.

Some are searching for familiar faces in the crowds, some still searching for the bodies of their loved ones – or trying to come to terms with the loss.

"This is my son," said Nestor Librando, a 31-year-old carpenter. "He drowned."

Mr Librando crouched over the small corpse, his eyes red with tears, inside Tacloban's St Michael The Archangel Chapel – which had been turned into a makeshift morgue.

Ten bodies were placed on wooden pews and across a pale white floor slick with blood, debris and water.


Mr Librando had taken refuge in a military compound near his home, he told Associated Press, and for two hours as the water rose around him held his two-year-old son in one arm and his three-year-old son in the other.

But the torrent proved too strong, and swept the family out of the building. The water rose above Mr Librando's head and he struggled to swim. His younger son slipped from his hands and was immediately pulled under the water.

"I found his body later, behind the house" in the courtyard, sunken in the mud.

"This is the worst thing I've ever seen in my life, the worst thing I could imagine.

"I brought him to this chapel because there was nowhere else to take him. I wanted Jesus Christ to bless him." (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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