By Stan Friedman
TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES (February 11, 2014) — Don and Lillian Dwight, Covenant missionaries to Taiwan, say the devastation from Super Typhoon Yolanda that struck November 8 last year was far worse than they could have imagined despite seeing so many images on TV. Yet, after a recent service trip to the area, they see recovery in some areas also beginning to take shape.
“I have lived through 20 or more typhoons in my years here in Taiwan, some quite strong, and I never have ever seen anything close to this amount of destruction,” Don said in an email. “The human side was even more gut wrenching. Every single person you talked to had a story.”
He explained, “Whether it was, ‘I lost my parents,’ or ‘I lost my son,’ or ‘My whole family is gone,’ or ‘I swam in the water for four hours holding onto a piece of Styrofoam,’ or ‘I pulled my 81-year-old mother up into the rafters of our house and sat there for four hours waiting for the water to go down.’ ”
The Dwights traveled to Tacloban as part of a ministry team from Morrison Academy, the Christian school in Taiwan where he teaches and coaches. Yolanda is the deadliest Philippine typhoon ever recorded, killing more than 6,200 people, with bodies still being found.
“The destruction is hard to fathom,” Don said. “In the first hundred yards in from the coastline the buildings were completely smashed to smithereens by the storm surge.” The 200 mph winds caused even more destruction, ripping apart homes and other structures, crumpling even some of the strongest buildings.
The roofs that withstood the battering became places of refuge. “One family saved over 90 people by pulling them out of the water onto their roof,” Don said.
Many of the people are living in homes with canvas tarps for roofs or are still living in tents, he said.
Signs of recovery are clearly seen, however. “I had expected something of a ghost town, but Tacloban is definitely not a ghost town,” Don said. “It is returning to life. Everywhere you go you can hear banging sounds—people repairing their houses or businesses.”
Debris has been cleared from the streets, people are starting to reopen businesses, and markets are selling food again, although the food supply remains low, Don said.
“Power has been restored to about 20 percent of the city, but many people are using generators to light their homes and businesses. Most of the power poles need to be replaced.”
The Morrison Academy team spent a week with Kids International Ministries doing medical work, working with a feeding program, and helping build simple, small houses. These houses are only 12 feet by 12 feet with no utilities, but it is better then living in a tent,” Don said.
Lillian was part of a medical team that saw more than 100 patients a day in various churches.