Maria Catantan Hanson is from a little village in the Philippines called Alegre. After Typhoon Haiyan struck the area, it’s hard to say it exists anymore.
“My village is probably a good 10 miles from the ocean, so that’s probably the reason they don’t have no dead but the wind wiped everything, our elementary school, our church … every house in the village has been wiped off,” said Hanson, who lives in Havelock. “No homes. No church. No school. Just all gone.”
The tropical cyclone, with peak winds of 174 mph, made a direct hit on the town of Dulag, just 25 miles south of Tacloban City.
“Tacloban is my city and Dulag is my town,” said Hanson, who owns Havelock Military Alteration in Havelock.
She said every building has damage in her home of Alegre.
“It’s supposed to be meaning happiness. It’s not happiness right now,” she said.
Hanson has two brothers and two sisters that live in the area, and she said all are alive. Her brother lived in their parents’ home.
“My parents’ house, it’s a concrete house, but they have three trees, two mango trees and one coconut tree, on top of my parents’ house,” said Hanson, who moved to Havelock after marrying a Marine.
The house, like most others, was made from concrete blocks with a metal roof, but that was ripped away in the storm.
“With 195 miles an hour wind, nothing holds,” Hanson said.
Reports are trickling in from remote villages affected by the storm. The Philippine government reports the death toll at 2,344, according to the Associated Press. Images of destruction continue to be sent from the region.
“It makes me cry,” Hanson said of the images. “All I have been doing is cry because I cannot do anything. A cannot even help them. I sent the money to my sister but they cannot even pick up the money because we don’t have no communication.”
One of Hanson’s sisters traveled five hours to a mountain town with electricity to place a call to the United States to report the family’s status.
“They are running out of gasoline. They don’t have food,” Hanson said. “They can find water because we have a river next to our village. They can boil water, but they don’t have food.”
Hanson has been getting updates on Facebook from relatives in Manila about the conditions in her hometown.
“I heard also through the Facebook that the Western Union run out of money,” she said. “Right now, money is no good out there. Right now people with water in hand and food in hand is the biggest thing.”
Hanson said typhoons are a way of life in the archipelago.
“We’re used to typhoon but we did not know that they have super typhoon like this that could just wipe off the whole island,” Hanson said. “We all know how to swim but I guess they got blind-sided.”
She said the rain and storm surge created havoc.
“They were prepared for the wind but they weren’t prepared for the water,” Hanson said. “They put all the people in the school, but the school is only one level and then when the water came crashing down, all of them got trapped inside. It was supposed to be the shelter. It’s horrible. I’ve been crying. That’s what I did last night, just cry, cry, cry. I would fall asleep and my eyes were burning from the crying.”
Hanson said she has extended relatives in Tacloban City, which was devastated when an estimated 10 to 13 feet of water from San Pedro Bay washed over it.
“I have a lot of uncles and cousins that live out there, but they are so scrambled, I don’t know,” Hanson said. “I am waiting for my sister to call me last night but probably they did not make it because they did not have no gasoline to ride the motorcycle to the top of the mountain to the city with electricity. Some of my relatives from Cebu made it to my village and find out that nobody died, except that they are hungry. They need water and food.”
Amie Faulkner, president of the Havelock Fil-Am Association, said many of its 300 members have relatives that were affected by the typhoon.
“My organization usually makes donations and stuff like that depending on what we can afford,” Faulkner said.
Faulkner said the organization’s executive committee has scheduled a weekend meeting at Marie’s Alterations in Havelock to form relief plans.
“This is the most tragic thing that has happened to the Philippines,” Faulkner said. “Whatever we can do to help would really, really help our people there.”