Praxy knew that Dolor’s house was very very strong.
Dolor built this house with monies received from the government after her police officer husband was gunned down and killed by a madman in the line of duty. She was extremely particular about the construction, demanding a deep, thick, heavy foundation and reinforced concrete walls. The roof support was double beamed, extremely strong and well constructed with cross ties. She was on the job site daily and no corners were cut. In fact, the construction people were forced to correct any item that was not up to specification. She was, in short, a nag.
Unusual for a house to be built so strongly in the Philippines. It may have saved their lives.
At midnight came a steady heavy downpour. Praxy stayed in her bedroom because of the migraine headache, everyone else lined up in the living room to sleep. Except Dolor. She nervously paced through the house, checking everything. Checking Praxy frequently, peeking in her room. Every time Dolor opened the curtain, Praxy would close her eyes and pretend to be asleep. Praxy could not sleep and laid in bed until…
2am, the winds hit suddenly and steadily. It sounded like a jet, hurting your ears. There were no breaks, no gusts. Gradually, stronger. Stronger. Stronger. Even though there were strong rains throughout, you could see outside. Everything was bathed in a strange, dim, white light. (I can not explain this. My best guess? The rain clouds were low to the ground and the moonlight was illuminating everything.) In two minutes, debris was flying. The window flew out of Praxy’s room and she could hear neighbors trying to hammer their houses back together. Coconuts were falling all around. Looking outside, Praxy watched as Dolor’s brother Lando and his sons tried to save their house across the street. It was futile. In moments, two coconuts trees fell on their two story house and they were forced to flee across to Dolor’s.
They ran to the front door, but it was nearly choked by debris. They took shelter as a tin roof came flying by, then darted for the back door. The wind was so strong, Dolor was scarcely able to open the front one and there was confusion and panic as she thought the tree had hit them. Praxy watched this drama through her broken window. Soon, all three were inside and safe.
We are now 5 minutes in. 14 people. No more people through the night.
Praxy’s room was on the lee side, so she stayed in her room. The winds continued to increase. Dolor watched as a neighbor’s roof flew into the air approached in the moonlight. It spun and twisted crazily, then crashed on her kitchen roof and Praxy’s bedroom roof with a terrible bang. And…It punched a 10 inch hole in the roof above Praxy. The only damage to Dolor’s house in that horrible night.
Praxy decided to get up and join the rest of the refugees in the living room.
30 minutes in. One of the children had a flashlight and everyone watched the nearby coconut trees sway violently, get stripped of fronds, then break or fall. Roof tins clanged, trees crashed, the winds were now like a nearby jet. Everyone complained of earaches. Not surprising. As a typhoon approaches, the barometric pressure falls rapidly.
Aside from the steady blast of wind, and crashing of debris, things stabilized (for lack of a better word). 3 1/2 more hours in a maelstrom.
6am, it was gone. Haiyan had passed. 7am, it struck Tacloban. Everyone knows what happened there.
I now know I have another great debt of gratitude. Dolor. For building the house that saved my wife’s life and the lives of others. It was stronger than most of the storm shelters. Many people in the area were killed when the shelters were compromised by the terrible fury of Haiyan.
They stepped outside to world totally and perhaps forever changed. Out of seventy three houses, 5 small houses had survived.
This is looking towards Salcedo. The road used to traverse the countryside through a tunnel of trees. Now you can see for miles. All the coconut trees are dead. There may be a survivor or two, but it will be 8 years for new ones to grow and produce fruit. A lucky survivor will produce fruit in three years. There will be a few. I hope.
All dead here. Every last one of them. As far as the eye can see. One of the main livelihoods are gone, gone, gone.
This is pitiful. Someone’s house.
This blurry picture shows the beginning of the relief. Rice cached at the town hall being divided up and given to people that had lost almost everything.
The first thing everyone does is…pick up the pieces. The men get together and building shelters. The women wash clothes and get them out to dry. The children look for anything useable. Most everyone tries to get items back to the proper owners, no matter how far away it is. Except for the tin roofs. Those are one of the most valuable items and no one knows just which roof it came from. So, up they go!
There is a story here. Coming up in the next blog. Asgad, my wife’s home town. Or what’s left of it…