Text and photos by Orland Quesada
Editor’s Note: Orland Quesada, a local of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, is ICSC’s community outreach officer and gender person under its RE-Charge Pilipinas program. He wrote this letter yesterday to us, his ICSC colleagues, as part of a preliminary rapid disaster needs assessment in the aftermath of Typhoon Ursula (international name: Phanfone).
A three-person team composed of RE-Charge Pilipinas staff and RE-Serve Humanitarian Corps members will head tomorrow to Guiuan – particularly its remote island barangay of Suluan – to assess the situation there and set up community solar charging stations using TekPaks.
27 December 2019
Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat.
My family and I are all safe from the onslaught of typhoon Ursula. Though the houses of my parents and two brothers were totally destroyed, they are all safe.
Typhoon Ursula first made landfall in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, packing more than 150 kph winds at around 4:00 in the afternoon, December 24, 2019, and leaving a trail of devastation in my hometown and nearby municipalities of Eastern Samar.
No Electricity and Mobile Signal
As of this writing, there is no electricity in Guiuan, where more than 50 electrical posts were toppled down by strong winds. Based on my estimate, it could take two or more months before electricity would be completely restored in Guiuan. There is no mobile signal from both Globe and Smart; there is no exact date when mobile signal will be available.
Damaged Shelters and Community Facilities
Most of the Guiuan coastal communities facing Leyte Gulf were washed by the storm surge. I still don’t have the exact figure, but houses, the Terminal and parts of the Guiuan Public Market built during the Haiyan recovery and reconstruction phase were also damaged.
As of this writing, three people died and hundreds were injured in Guiuan.
In hindsight, the decision of the Guiuan local government unit (LGU) to strictly implement preemptive and forced evacuation of people living along the coastal areas before Typhoon Ursula hit Guiuan resulted in minimal number of casualties. As of now, the LGU is conducting rapid damage and needs assessment, and relief distribution to all affected households, particularly evacuees.
Basic Goods and Fuel
The Guiuan Public Market is open and its operations is back to normal. So far, basic commodities like rice and canned goods are readily available in the market. Kerosene and candles are the top selling items. I see a long line of people queuing in gasoline stations, waiting for an hour or more just to buy kerosene to be used as fuel for kerosene lamps.
Roads from Guiuan to Tacloban are already passable. Felled electric posts and lines are lying on one lane of the road in some areas in Marabut, Samar. On my way to Tacloban, I saw the Department of Public Works and Highways conducting clearing operations in these areas.
I will return to Guiuan this afternoon and gather more data and information about the situation on the ground so that ICSC and our partners could have a basis in coming up with response plans to provide humanitarian assistance and energy to the people of my hometown.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
Damu nga Salamat,