The island of Leyte was hit particularly hard by Typhoon Haiyan. Nearly a week after the storm, there are still thousands of people without electricity and drinking water. But in some places there are signs of hope.
Debris has piled up along the main streets of Merida, a municipality of some 30,000 inhabitants. The coastal town located in western Leyte has been one of the worst affected by the storm. Less than a week after the super typhoon made landfall, people have started repairing damaged houses, installing new roofs and laying some foundations.
Although Roberto Rome lives on Merida's main street, he does not intend to wait to see how his town is rebuilt. The 64-year-old sits on a small wooden bench in what was once the backyard of his house and looks at the ground. His wife Wana was killed during the typhoon. "A Tilopo, a breadfruit tree, was knocked down by the storm and killed her," he said. Rome himself could not run fast enough and was hit by a tree branch on the back of his head. Stitches barely keep the wound together.
On the way, but not there yet
It starts raining. People in Merida begin to move closer together under the roofs that are still standing and the houses that have been rebuilt. The rain makes it difficult to carry out relief operations. Moreover, no outside help has arrived in this region until now.
Sandra Bulling, aid worker at the humanitarian organization CARE International, provides an insight into the situation on the ground. She drove here from the port city of Ormoc, located some 30 kilometers from Leyte. "What we need the most is food," a group of young people enjoying the cool air on the street after the downpour, told Bulling. However, the aid worker had to stave off the group by explaining to them that food was on the way from Manila to Leyte. "Our aim is to reach the more remote villages such as Merida and Isabel in the coming days. There are also plans to ship building materials, so that survivors can start building makeshift shelters."
A town hall as an operation center
Some aid supplies have already arrived in Ormoc. Volunteers frantically carry bags full of rice and canned meat into the town hall, which only lost part of its roof and some windows during the storm. The government sent the supplies which are now being stored and guarded by police and military personnel.
Bingo Capahi is one of the many city employees now helping in the town hall. Despite the fact that rain water often needs to be wiped off the floor, rescue efforts are being coordinated from here. "Ormoc has been completely destroyed," says Capahi, adding that "our priority now is to bring ready-to-eat meals to the people in the area." Capahi explains that Ormoc will become the hub for the distribution of aid supplies across Leyte island, as the city's airport and seaport are apparently in a good condition.
Easing the pain
As the sun sets in the evening and darkness engulfs the city with no electricity, the light of a flashlight coming from opposite the town hall gives a sign of hope. With a guitar in his hands, Teking Etang sits on the street with his friends. The young man, who also lost his house in the storm, says that, at least for a while, music is the best medicine to ease the pain caused by the disaster. Then he strikes up a song.