Aid Worker Arniel Anasco – Timeline of the Haiyan Disaster

By Arniel Anasco, with Hasanthi Jayamaha

Monday, November 04: It is the first announcement. PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) announced of a newly-formed cyclone named Haiyan in the Pacific Ocean and it’s gradually intensifying. They say it might grow into a Typhoon.

We are advised to monitor and to be on alert. Everyone is listening to the news reports almost every hour to find out the latest and how to safeguard our houses and assets.

Tuesday, November 05: Haiyan is still on course rapidly intensifying trekking towards our country. The storm is expected to make landfall in our area (Leyte) on Friday, November 8. The government raises Public Storm Warning Signal # 1.

We (World Vision team in Ormoc) get in touch with the municipality to confirm the evacuation locations for the community.

Afterwards, we meet with the community leaders in our Programme area to advise them on the evacuation plans for the communities and to discuss security measures they need to take and the safety locations already identified by the government. 

Wednesday, November 06: Haiyan is now known as a Super Typhoon. The communities begin to evacuate to the directed locations. 

We (World Vision team in Ormoc) visit the evacuation centres at the different locations after the community starts the evacuation to make sure the children and the families are safe and to make sure every child, especially the sponsored children, are accounted for.

Thursday, November 07: The morning is so beautiful and calm. The sun bright and warm. No rain. No wind.

Haiyan entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) early this morning. Locally, it is given the name ‘Yolanda’. It is announced as an extremely dangerous super typhoon.

The government raises Public Storm Warning Signal No. 4. 

The ADP team meets to talk about prepositioning for the disaster. I visit different stores that have strong buildings that will withstand the typhoon. I work to secure the relief goods we might need for distribution after the disaster. 

The afternoon still is calm. We talk amongst ourselves that maybe Haiyan changed her mind and changed course.

3:00 pm:  The team disperses as we go home and help our own families.

My parents and my brothers are already putting things away into safer places when I arrive home. We cover our TV and the fridge and other electrical equipment with tarpaulin so that they will not get damaged in the rain.

Every house has their TV or radio on continuously tuned to the updates on the approaching typhoon.

5:30 pm: The sunset is magnificent. The evening carries into the night the same stillness and the calmness.

10:00 pm: We finish covering and packing away our things and get ready to sleep. It starts to rain on and off. A strange fear begins to grip me. I can’t sleep. 

Friday, November 08:

4:00 am: We wake up and listen to the TV as mama prepares breakfast. She insists that we face Haiyan with a full stomach. But I just can’t eat. My heart is beating so fast. I’m so nervous and afraid I can’t explain.

4:30 am: The news announces that Yolanda is now close to our area (Leyte).

5:00 am: Power goes off.

6:30 am: There is a sudden change in the environment outside. We watch from our windows as it begins to darken and the wind starts to blow faster - bending the coconut trees more than usual.

7:00 am: The wind is growing in strength, now bending the coconut trees right to the ground. It is a very scary sight.

8:00 am: There is zero visibility outside with such heavy rain. The strength of the wind now begins to shift and lift the roof of our house. My father had hammered nails onto the roof from the inside and tied ropes from there to the bed so that the storm would not carry the roof away.

8:15 am: The wind begins to lift the roof with the bed so we all hold onto the ropes.

9:00 am: The storm suddenly calms. There is no wind and just a drizzle of rain. We open our doors and step out of the house. Everyone in the community is out of their houses. Many roofs blew away. The typhoon has torn down most of the coconut trees. 

Haiyan has passed. Or so we think.

9:10 am: The dark grows again. There is a sound like that of a ship engine, growing louder and louder in the distance.

Haiyan is not over. Haiyan is just beginning. We run into our houses. 

As the sound comes louder and louder, our walls begin to shake. The six of us run out of the house and squeeze into the 1.5 x 1.5m comfort room (toilet).

We can’t see anything from the comfort room. We can only hear the wind, which is scary enough. It is horrible and indescribable- it’s as if a massive earth digger is drilling the ground outside. And it lasts for three hours nonstop.

It is the end of the world for us. We cry and pray.

My dad says if we die in this disaster we will meet together on the other side.

12:30 pm: The noise begins to soften and when there is no noise except for the sound of the rain we open our door and step out. 

Destruction is everywhere - roofing sheets and broken trees - and most of the houses are completely destroyed.

Everyone in the community is stepping out into the rubble but strangely we are all smiling.

I don’t know why. We are all smiles. Maybe we are simply glad to be alive.

Our roof has blown away. Haiyan ransacked the house, shifting the furniture around. Everything we covered no longer has a cover. 

There is no electricity and no reception on our phones. The roads are inaccessible.

Our family begins to clear the rubble inside the house where Haiyan dumped leaves and wood and roofing. My father begins to make a temporary roof with whatever material he finds to shelter our family for the night.

It rains again during the night. We stay awake from the combination of fear and the sounds of rain dripping into the house.

Monday, November 11: The impact of the disaster begins to internalise. Our family, together with others in our community are emotionally crumbling. Talking helps, so we visit each other’s houses.

Tuesday, November 12: I travel to work because I want to let the team know I am still alive. I know we will start a disaster response soon. It takes hours to get to the office. On my way, I witness the magnitude of the disaster. Not a house is standing and the community is busily trying to make temporary shelters to protect their families.

The city area is crowded with people looking for places to purchase food. A lot of people look panicked because their families have nothing to eat.

The stores we contacted for relief items are damaged and their goods destroyed.

Thursday, November 14: The World Vision team starts to visit families in our programme area especially the families of the sponsored children to make sure they are safe and are accounted for.

As I visit families and talk with them I realise many are traumatised. I can relate to their trauma. A deep sadness began to grip my heart. Seeing children without shelter and food and water really hurts.

Week two after the disaster:  World Vision begins to distribute relief goods in many barangay’s in my area, providing food and non-food items and hygienic kits for families. 

One month on: Our communities are on the road to recovery and rebuilding. Already most families have built shelters with whatever materials they can find. People are helping each other to start over again – to start a new life. The unity in the communities makes recovery faster. The children are doing better too.

As a coordinator in charge of income generation activities, I look forward to the work of rebuilding livelihoods. I want to encourage families to not lose hope because we can gain back what Haiyan has taken away.