TACLOBAN

Yolanda survivors look back as Filipinos brace for world’s strongest 2020 typhoon

EASTERN SAMAR. Photo of Ronan Renz Napoto’s house after it was flattened to the ground by Super Typhoon Yolanda on November 8, 2013. (Contributed photo)

RONAN Renz Napoto is feeling uneasy again while looking up the blue sky on Saturday afternoon, October 31, in Catarman, Northern Samar.

“We had very calm and sunny weather before the deadly typhoon. Nobody thought that the next day would be the worst nightmare we could ever imagine,” said the 22-year-old survivor of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Napoto, who now works on renewable energy access to off-grid communities and households (Reach) project for the humanitarian aid agency Malteser International, said Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni) “is bringing us similar vibes seeing the real-time updates and hearing how the sun shines in Luzon.”

“The sky this afternoon is disturbing. This feeling is triggering our half-inch buried traumas from the Super Typhoon Yolanda,” he added.

Napoto was a fourth-year high school student when he saw how Yolanda flattened their small community in Quinapondan, Eastern Samar on November 8, 2013.

Yolanda, known as "the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall in world history," pummeled through the central Philippines with its sustained winds of 305 kilometers per hour (km/h), damaging over a million homes, destroying some P35-billion agricultural products and infrastructures, displacing 4.1 million residents and killing over 6,000 people, mostly from Eastern Visayas.

“As we are about to remember Yolanda on its seventh year next week, we are again threatened by another potential super typhoon. Nakakapagod lang. Every year, we always get affected by these climate change impacts and yet we don't do so much about it,” said Napoto, who is also leading youth climate movements in the country.

“I hope that our story of loss and tragedy ends on our experience from 2013. We would not want others to feel what we had back then. It's never easy. Some have yet to recover, most are still struggling internally,” he added.

As of Saturday evening, Rolly, the world's strongest tropical cyclone so far this 2020, maintained its “violent” wind speed of 215 km/hr as it moved closer to the Bicol region.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Rolly could make landfall in the Bicol area on Sunday morning, November 1.

The super typhoon may follow Typhoon Quinta's trail of destruction in Central Luzon last October 25, according to the state weather agency.

“Let our stories from Super Typhoon Yolanda be a learning and warning to everyone. Please take this as an opportunity to prepare. Know the hazards in your area. Evacuate to a safer place. Store enough foods and potable water, and medicines (even first aid kit). Charge your phones and flashlights. Be vigilant. Always!” Napoto urged residents who are directly in the path of the powerful storm.

‘Twist of fate’

Dr. Ronelo Al Firmo, assistant regional director of the Department of Education (DepEd) V-Bicol, recalled Yolanda’s aftermath as he also saw “a very fine weather” on Saturday.

“The calm before the storm,” wrote Firmo, describing the photos of a clear sky over Legaspi City, Albay that he uploaded on his Facebook account.

“Seven years ago, I experienced the strongest typhoon Yolanda. I survived the wind, rain and storm surge. In a twist of fate, I am about to experience again a super typhoon in Bicol,” said Firmo, who was the former schools division superintendent in DepEd-Leyte and one of the 14 finalists for the 2019 Gawad Career Executive Service Presidential Award.

“Hope it will change course as we are still trying to recover from Typhoon Quinta,” added the education official from Tanauan town in Leyte.

Agricultural damage brought by Quinta was placed at P1.7 billion while the death toll was 16, coming from Bicol region, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Western and Central Visayas.

Meanwhile, Malacañang Palace said it is closely monitoring the movement of Rolly.

“The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Operations Center is already on Red Alert Status and is in close coordination with all regional disaster risk reduction and management councils and local government units that are in the track of the typhoon. They have been conducting Pre-Disaster Risk Assessments to ensure that all local government units and communities are prepared for the possible impacts of the typhoon to landslide-, flood-, storm surge- and lahar flow- prone areas,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

“We ask the public, especially the residents of potential areas that will be affected by the typhoon, to stay calm yet vigilant,” he added.

According to Roque, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has stockpiles and standby funds amounting to more than P879 million, as of October 30.

The funds will be “for ready resource augmentation to local government units.”

As of 6 p.m. Saturday, Rolly is now 345 kilometers east northeast of Virac, Catanduanes. (SunStar Philippines)


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