In the eye of the storm: survivors’ tales

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014


RESIDENTS of Sitio Naba, Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City thought a fire had broken out in their neighborhood. However, it turned out to be a tornado sweeping through their area and leaving them, literally, without a roof over their heads.

Among the 38 structures affected by the tornado that struck the sitio last Tuesday afternoon were the Badjao Fellowship Church headed by Pastor Boger Jermany and the house of 71-year-old Ammarain Basarain.

Jermany told Sun.Star Cebu he was by the shore repairing the engine of his pump boat when he saw people running and children screaming “sunog, sunog (fire, fire).”

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This prompted Jermany to rush to the church, which is also his home, to check what was happening.

No one hurt

When he got there, Jermany said he saw dark clouds form and then a strong gust of wind, which children thought was smoke coming from a fire, tore the roof off of his neighbor’s house.

Realizing that it was tornado, Jermany went into the church, gathered his wife and two children, and prayed to God to spare their lives.

“Kamulo namong am-po, saba kaayo ang hangin unya kusog kaayo. Nakadungog kog crack, paghangad nako, nawa na ang among atop. Pero igo ra gyud siya nilabay. Wa man namo nabati ang hangin sa sulod (We could hear the wind roar and felt its strength but we didn’t stop praying. We heard a loud crack and when we looked up, our ceiling was gone. But it seemed like the wind was just passing. We didn’t even feel it inside),” he said.

Jermany said he is thankful that he and his family are safe, but lamented the damaged the tornado has caused on the church.

Aside from tearing off the roof, he said the tornado also damaged the church’s organ and amplifiers, among others.

Both equipment, he said, were carried off by the wind and ended up in the water under the houses of the Badjao community.

Jermany said he had to wade through the debris-filled water to retrieve them.

Another structure that was affected by the incident was Basarain’s house.

Like Jermany, Basarain said he thought fire had broken out in the sitio because of the screams made by the children.

Random hits

“Ako na untang hakuton among mga butang sa akong bangka para di maapil sa sunog unya buhawe man diay (I was going to take my possessions to my boat but it turned out to be a tornado),” he said.

Basarain went into his house and prayed.

He said the howling sound got stronger and suddenly his roof was ripped apart and blown away.

Basarain’s grandson Sam likened the tornado to a “metal spring”.

“It was jumping from one house to the next, but it didn’t follow a straight path. It would hit one house but spare the one next to it,” he said in Cebuano.

Jermany, Asarain and other affected families began repairing their houses yesterday.

The barangay gave them tents to serve as their temporary roof.

Department of Social Welfare Services Chief Ester Concha, in a separate interview, said her staff is assessing the damage and validating the list of victims so they can determine the kind of assistance to extend to them.

Concha said Mayor Michael Rama told her the affected families can use the roof of the now demolished Cebu City Medical Center.

The tornado also affected Sitios Lawis and Viking.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 10, 2014.

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