The trucks were loaded with medicines, relief aid, tents for clinics, camping cots for patients and a large 6.5 VGA generator. From here we headed to the port were local communities had arranged for the team and goods to go by ferry from Cebu to Ormoc.
There is no electricity or clean water in Ormoc. Also food is running out and local government and partners have not managed to get aid in. Ferries to the island of Cebu are packed with pregnant mothers, families, the strong evacuating. Many land, buy food and plastic taupe to return as fast as possible to get back to starving families.
We spent 4 hours navigating local bureaucracy to get the truck and car filled to bursting on the ferry. Our tickets had been ordered one way the night before and picked up through locals assisting us as tickets are a rare commodity. No return tickets as the lines to return start the night before at the port of departure to be the first in the morning in order to get a ticket back to Cebu.
The car loads first on the ferry. But the truck filled with most of our goods struggled to get on. One must queue the autos from early in the day to make sure you get on the ferry. We watched anxiously as 10 pm drew near, departure time, and the truck waited in line. The loading area was full. Out local contacts spoke repeatedly to the loaders begging for the relief aid to get on. Eventually we had to go up the gangplank while they pushed in faith that they would get it on. At the last minute the phone rang: we were on!
The ferry left the dock and we surveyed the decks before us. We were on a bottom deck with cots like bunk beds jammed so tightly that one could hardly pass. The aircon was broken and the area filled with people, boxes, plastic bags and a dog. The top deck was standing room and the same but at least fresh air.
I opted for the bottom deck where I could sleep, despite the heat. A young woman from Tacloban is next to us and looks exhausted. We begin to talk to her and she tells us that when the Typhoon hit 15 members of her family were killed. Their homes are destroyed. There is nothing left. The rest of the family is leaving as there is no infrastructure, no food, no clean water and no way to restore life as there is no work.
Her eyes are like glass and I can tell she is in shock. She carries a few things with her. But mostly she lies down and sleeps.
Stories like this are everywhere on the ferry. The family in the queue tell me that they lost everything. Their home is also destroyed and everything in it. They have taken what they can and left for Cebu where they will stay with friends and try to find work. The one sister is in marketing and tells me that they cannot start building a home again as they don't have money. They will board with family and friends till they can find work.
There is a sadness in the ferry. The people around me are many but the deck is silent.
We landed at 4am to a glassy sea with the grey lumps of the mountains from the island before us. The shore looked like something prehistoric with spikes of palms sticking up into the sky as the leaves were all gone. Behind, the buildings had no roofs and the debris on the ground became more and more noticeable as the sun rose over the devastated terrain.
I turned back to the trucks and realized the loading bridge was being repaired and nothing could be unloaded. Two hours later and with an hour and a half to spare to open the clinic we got the aid out and headed to our compound, a partially destroyed hotel without amenities but a safe place to sleep and store our goods.
Fortunately, the German team had managed to go a day earlier and joined the IsraAid team that had arrived the day before.
They had cleaned and organized the clinic which we were taking over. The clinic had been closed since the typhoon as the roof was partially destroyed and they had even run out of paracetamol.
Logistics are very difficult in a disaster zone. We were lucky as I met a pastor and team on the ferry bringing in aid. We joined resources and they helped us sort the Meds from the relief aid. The Meds arrived at the clinic but by this time the people were waiting in lines down the road. We had to close the gates to control the influx of people into the clinic. Quickly, we set up and the day started with new born babies, many septic cuts on bodies and three cases where we rushed patients to the local hospital as they were in a critical condition.
In between the social welfare department and the Deputy Mayor met with me and where very thankful for our assistance.
The social welfare department and I met on the second story of the building where the sky was our roof. We quickly discussed with a team of their welfare officers who was the most vulnerable and how to get aid to them. We decided on malnourished families with children and elderly. A voucher system was quickly devised and the welfare officers dashed off to inform their people. Later that day 40 pastors came and met the team leader of Israaid and myself. They offered us assistance with manpower.
Executive Director, Shai Fund