Fr. Couture, District Superior of Asia, has provided us with another report on the SSPX's Filipino typhoon relief efforts.
Reporting from Tacloban, Leyte
Dear Doctor Dickes,
I have uploaded a few pictures [NB: this link takes you to SkyDrive] for you of our driving around Tacloban this week. Sorry for the low quality. Internet connection is difficult. We are using generator to power our computer.
Major roads are now clear, more people returning to their homes to clean up the mess. By December the place might be clean, though it remains to be seen how infrastructure reconstruction will progress.
The hotels are starting repair works. I hope to book rooms for volunteers by mid-December. At the moment, all inns and hotels are fully booked despite the damage because journalists and foreign volunteers from many countries need a place for their operations. Last week Fr. Timothy Pfeiffer's team booked a damaged hotel in Tacloban for a few days. They were not asked to pay because the roof was torn. I have to wait for repairs to be finished before I book to make sure that your rooms will be all right before I give the initial payments.
I have seen the logo of Medecins sans Frontieres but I have not interviewed the French group because they were busy with very long lines of patients. The patients were all smiling because of the free medicines. I spoke with the Director of the United Nations Civil Protection at the relief operations base in Tacloban airport. He spoke Dutch and English, no French at all, what a pity (!), because I wished to get him to speak French to explain the situation in Tacloban.
Things are picking up. People who were dumbstruck in the aftermath of the typhoon are now waking up and repairing the buildings and the roads and bridges. Dead bodies are still being retrieved as the clearing work continues in the residential areas. The City Health Officer says our timing on January is ideal for the medical mission because it is expected that by then the people would have returned to their homes and the emergency disaster response would have progressed to the rehabilitation phase. There are military and police stations to maintain order and peace in the area so safety is assured.
The airport, at the moment, is very busy with military planes landing and taking off every hour. There are tents of various international disaster response volunteers in the airport. There are many people coming in and out the airport. There are buses giving free rides from the airport to the shipping port. By January, I guess the military planes will have less flights but the local commercial airlines may increase their flight schedules to accommodate the demands from the business sector trying hard to replenish lost stocks. I also cannot speak the local dialect but many locals can understand English and the national Filipino language, so I have had no problem speaking with the locals.
The governor promised the people that electricity will be fully restored in the whole island before Christmas so the families are looking forward to a normal business life come January. I expect that with electricity communication lines will also improve.
Hospitals in Tacloban were damaged and emergency response teams have put up tents where the sick and wounded are being treated. The worst scenario is past, and ambulance ferry the patients that need a proper hospital bed to the towns that still have a functional hospital. Military planes fly the patients that need tertiary care to Manila. Commercial planes have already resumed business so medical supplies are already coming in.
Food is available in Tacloban supplied by the neighboring islands and the southern towns of Leyte which were not hit by the typhoon, so our team will have sufficient food. Bottled water is also available. Residents in the area receive some free bottled water for their drinking and resort to tap water for dishwashing and laundry. I am not sure about the safety of the tap water but I have not yet heard of cases of waterborne diseases coming up. Maybe later, in January, when free bottled water is no longer available to the residents, we might be faced with some problems, but that remains to be seen.
People are still staying in evacuation centers though there are a number who have returned to their damaged houses hoping to clear the rubble and rebuild as soon as possible. I cannot tell this early if the houses will be cleaner or dirtier by January, if after clearing all the debris, the city can maintain an efficient waste disposal system while reconstruction and rehabilitation is going on and evacuation centers will be closed and families begin living in tents. I don't know yet if the local government is planning to relocate the families temporarily to facilitate demolition of damaged houses. I have yet to speak with the local officials about this. In the past weeks, the disaster council, military personnel and foreign volunteers took charge of the disaster response. This week, local civilians will be preparing to take over the work of reconstruction and rehabilitation. The local offices opened only today to start clearing of business areas.
Yours in Mary Immaculate, Rosa Mystica,