An aerial view shows a coastal community hit by Typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Samar. AP

TACLOBAN CITY, NOVEMBER 16, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Paolo Romero - Tacloban and other parts of Leyte were not the only places severely hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

“Eastern Samar is gone,” Rep. Ben Evardone of the province lamented yesterday as he sought emergency assistance for his home province.

Evardone made the assessment after he was able to visit even remote towns in Eastern Samar on Monday by hitching rides on helicopters and trucks.

He has helped marshal social workers, soldiers and volunteers to distribute aid to the victims, but sighs, “I really don’t know where to start. I cannot imagine the devastation that hit my province.”

As he saw the province from a helicopter, he told himself, “There is no more Eastern Samar province.”

“You cannot recognize it. The devastation was horrific,” he told reporters, his voice cracking.

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He said he flew over the coastal municipalities that were swept away by a storm surge triggered by Yolanda, including the historic Balangiga and Homonhon towns up to Guiuan, where the monster howler first made landfall.

“Until now, I have goose bumps. When I saw one island barangay there called Victory, it’s really wiped out, you couldn’t see a thing,” he said.

Evardone, a former governor of the province, said President Aquino himself arranged for his transport loaded with relief goods so he would be able assist his constituents.

He said since the local government infrastructure had ceased to exist, policemen and soldiers had to be deployed to Guiuan because of reports of looting.

Compounding the situation, he said, is the escape of over 160 inmates from Guiuan.

He appealed to the international donor communities not to focus only on Tacloban City as Samar had also suffered heavily with 11 of its 23 municipalities the hardest hit by the killer typhoon.

“I don’t know how we will be able to rise because 80 percent of my constituents rely on coconut but now the coconut trees are either uprooted or toppled down, and it takes five to 10 years to replant,” he said. “If you use a new variety, we’d be lucky three to five years to harvest coconut and in the meantime – three to five years what will you do? With your children?”

Lessons learned

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government should draw lessons from Yolanda to make it more effective in dealing with future calamities.

On hindsight, Coloma said they should have explained to local government officials that a storm surge could be mistaken for tsunami or tidal wave and could be as deadly or even more lethal.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology defines a tsunami as a series of sea waves commonly generated by underwater earthquakes, which could be as high as five meters.

A storm surge is created when a powerful storm blows over a body of water, creating abnormally high waves that move toward the shoreline. The high waves can cause severe flooding in coastal areas.

But Coloma said the government did not lack in preparations and that some things were just beyond its control like when Typhoon Pablo unexpectedly hit Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, which until then had not experienced storms in the last 100 years.

Aside from better information, Coloma said “black swans” or highly unusual events could lead government to enhance preparations for disaster.

While the people of Leyte and Samar are used to typhoons, Coloma said they were not familiar with storm surges.

He said people were now realizing that a storm surge has a “tsunami-like effect.”

Coloma said the same thing happened when Typhoon Sendong hit Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities in December 2011, washing down thousands of logs from the mountain to the surprise and horror of the people in the lowlands.

Coloma emphasized the government was prepared for the worst-case scenario and this was the reason why President Aquino warned of the big dangers posed by Yolanda. – Aurea Calica, Helen Flores

Tsunami, not storm surge in Samar town? By Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 16, 2013 - 12:00am 59 772 googleplus0 1

BASEY, Samar, Philippines – Last week at the height of monster howler Yolanda, the heavy rain suddenly stopped and the wind died down in this fishing town facing the Pacific Ocean.

In the eerie stillness, townsfolk saw the sea recede by about half a kilometer, living fish flopping on the seabed. There was an explosive boom, and then they saw a wall of water about 10 feet high, like a dark storm cloud, roaring toward shore.

The first powerful wave crashed into the fishing village, followed by three more, washing away people, houses, the town auditorium and plaza. As of yesterday, local officials reported that the confirmed death toll in the town stood at 190, with at least 39 missing.

Basey residents believe they were hit by a tsunami rather than a storm surge, which devastated Tacloban City when Yolanda battered the Visayas last week with wind speeds up to 315 kilometers per hour. There was no tsunami warning for Yolanda.

Townsfolk lament that Basey is not even on the map of disaster relief officials.

Edgar dela Cruz, 45, of Barangay Mercado, recounted to The STAR the sight of what looked like a tsunami. During the strange lull in the typhoon, he went out of his house. Jinamok Island was a kilometer across the sea from his village, he said. The sea receded about halfway to the island.

“There was a kind of low black cloud moving toward us,” Dela Cruz said. “We heard a loud boom, like an explosion. And then we saw the giant waves… four giant waves… it was horrible.”

Their house was destroyed. He said he and his family escaped “with only the clothes on our back.”

Councilor Mansueto Delovino, a former mayor of Basey, said many others told similar stories of the apparent tsunami.

“The destruction was caused not so much by the wind but by the wave,” said Delovino, whose two-story house near the beach and town plaza was also destroyed.

Councilor Honesto Zeta said Basey was in dire need of help and relief assistance.

Mayor Egmidio “Junji” Ponferrada said that of the town’s 51 barangays, 19 were severely affected by the typhoon and more than 7,000 households need immediate relief assistance.

He said the first relief aid from the national government arrived only yesterday morning, when the Department of Social Welfare and

Development (DSWD) distributed about 4,880 food packs.

“It was not enough,” Ponferrada said.

Zeta’s daughter Hazel Zeta-Dy Tioco, a multinational pharmaceutical executive, is one of the Basey natives living in Manila who are lobbying for aid to be immediately sent to the town, pointing out that Basey has suffered as much as Tacloban City in Leyte.

“Basey is not even in the crisis map drawn up by the NDRRMC to identify priority areas for relief goods,” Dy Tioco said, referring to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Dy Tioco has purchased basic necessities and asked friends and relatives in Manila to donate relief goods through The Philippine Star’s humanitarian arm, Operation Damayan. The STAR team arrived in Basey yesterday.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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