Hatai Lim

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"We took refuge on the top floor of a boarding house. The five others were praying and I was filming."
Nickson Gensis, Plan Philippines Community Development Worker

(Source: youtube.com)

Trying to communicate from Tacloban city

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My name is Hatai Limprayoonyong and I am Plan International’s Internal Communications Specialist in Asia, reporting from the Philippines

Today, I went to Tacloban City, one of the worst-affected areas, together with my Plan colleagues and 13 volunteers.

There is no signal here at the Plan office in Tacloban and things are in a bad way. To get connected, you need to go out to the city hall. At the city hall there is a vital hub served by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, where you can make contact with others through radio. There’s also computers with internet access. 

They tell me this hub has been set up here since November 9 and 1,000 people come here every day. With only five computers to serve the whole city population and the provinces nearby, our time is limited to three minutes per person. I suppose this is just enough time to Facebook or Tweet those close to us, those who depend on us, that we’re OK. 

"I am alive" is the popular phrases here.

They say this centre will be here as long as the gas and generator are working. 

Things aren’t safe here and we’re given a strict curfew from the government by 8pm but for Plan staff, we set it to our base by 5pm – the security guard will be waiting for us and there is a password for us to get access to our team house. People sleep wherever they can. 

But now I hear there is an issue with transportation. We’re in trouble as we may run out of fuel. Gasoline is precious - for both power and transportation. 

For now, we have to wait and I wonder when we will make it back to Plan’s base in Manila.

We are staying positive and doing what we can, but I can see the staff from Plan’s local team are tired and exhausted. Some have lost their homes. Others have lost everything they know. 

It’s a difficult situation to comprehend, as we are responsible for providing relief for people, yet we are also affected.

A city desperate to survive

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My name is Hatai Limprayoonyong and I am Plan International’s Internal Communications Specialist in Asia, reporting from the Philippines.

Trees have been torn from the ground and lie uprooted at the side of the road. Buildings are reduced to rubble. Electricity polls have toppled over. Boats lie upside down on the ground and huge six-wheel lorries are overturned.

This is the road I am taking to Tacloban City, an area devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

Tacloban has never seen devastation like this. Before Typhoon Haiyan roared though the city on Friday, it was a beautiful place. Right now, everything has been turned upside down.

I have been travelling, together with my colleagues from charity Plan International, to the affected area all day, but we’re yet to arrive.

We are on the outskirts of Tacloban, just five to ten minutes away, says the driver, but the scene is chaotic. The roads are narrow and all I can see are people walking.

The car is moving slowly, very slowly – we want to get there so we can carry out assessments, distribute relief and check on our own staff there.

As we get nearer, the smell of dead bodies pervades. Some of them are littered by the side of the road, mixed in with the rubbish, but people just ignore them.

When you see it, when you can sense it, smell it and feel it - it’s awful.

There’s no food or water here and all around me, people are desperately trying to find something to eat.

Girls and boys are carrying packs of noodles and dry foods, grabbing anything they can find from shattered shops. It’s difficult to stop and ask how they’re feeling when they’re lumbered down with so many things.

Now, looting is taking place because these people are desperate to survive.

They are facing a depressing scenario and for a brief moment, I wonder whether I would do the same in that situation.

One of my colleagues from Plan went to talk to some store owners and they say everything has gone. Now, people are looking to a damaged factory for food supplies, but the owner says he’s given everything away too.

I’ve see people walking towards the city and coming back with food. Apparently people are selling food at the entrance to the city, while concern remains high from the military that those who try to enter Tacloban just want to loot it.

The city is in chaos and destruction remains as far as the eye can see - and it’s something that 19-year-old Charlene is living through.

Charlene is living in a temporary shelter, after her home was washed away. The only thing that remains from her kitchen is the counter. The rest is gone.

She used to live near one of the official government buildings, made out of brick, but even that could not withstand the force of Typhoon Haiyan.

Charlene says that people are starting to get sick, and what they need right now is food, water and medicine. The teenager wants to stay with her aunties and her brother and she longs to go back to school, to normality.

She tells me she is trying to stay strong, that she is praying for other victims affected by the typhoon and that we can get through this together.

Her bravery is a testament to the people of of the Philippines. Around me, I see families shielding their children from the aftermath of this typhoon, while one four-year-old boy is playing at the side of the road, unaware of the magnitude of this disaster.

We’re yet to see the state of the school and the evacuation centres, who knows what they will be like, who knows what will happen next.

Our car is still slowly edging towards Tacloban and it seems we will be here for some time. I think I will have to sleep here tonight.

Sombre mood prevails as Plan International’s emergency response team pushes towards areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

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My name is Hatai Limprayoonyong and I am Plan International’s Internal Communications Specialist in Asia, reporting from the Philippines.

Travelling into a disaster zone is a strange thing, you leave “normality” behind you and travel deeper into a world turned upside down by the force of nature. Plans change, the unexpected happens regularly, and a sense of dread at what you will find on reaching your destination pervades everything.

We left Manila early this morning, heading towards Tacloban City, a city of just over 200,000 people that has, by all accounts, been completely devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (known as Typhoon Yolanda here in the Philippines). Tacloban sits on the shores of the Philippine province of Leyte and reports are coming in of bodies lying on the street. We don’t have the latest figures to hand but some are estimating that this Typhoon has killed more than 10,000 people in Tacloban alone, a figure that’s hard to comprehend.

Tacloban Airport was destroyed by the typhoon so we flew to Legaspe City, then transferred to a ferry. On the ferry we met survivors of the typhoon who had been in Tacloban. ‘Everything is gone” was a common phrase. As part of our work to prepare for Typhoon Haiyan we prepositioned emergency supplies in the areas that would be worst hit - enough for 40,000 people. But as the stories of Typhoon Haiyan start to emerge we are not even sure that those weren’t also destroyed in the storm.

Midway through our trip we received new information about East Samar and about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Tacloban. People there are desperate for food, water and medical supplies and are resorting to increasingly desperate measures to try and get them. After a quick discussion about the ways we could best provide assistance we diverted to a base 3 hours drive from Tacloban - and 4 hours from East Samar, a region that has been ominously quiet since the Typhoon hit on Friday. We don’t know if our Plan colleagues and their families are ok either - one of our team is hoping to find his wife and children in East Samar when we visit. He hasn’t heard from them since Thursday.

It was frustrating not to reach our destination today but we need to make sure that we can provide the best assistance possible when we do - and that means going where we are most needed - and doing it in a way where that we don’t add to the problems faced by the community. From what little information we do have, we believe that East Samar was hit even harder than Tacloban. When we look at the footage of Tacloban playing on TV screens across the world it is hard to imagine a place that is hurting even more.

Tomorrow we will split into two groups and head to East Samar and Tacloban City - we don’t know what we will find there but we will be working around the clock to assess the situation and assist the people of these badly affected areas who need our support now more than ever before.

Nov 9

Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda [Day3]

It has been such a long day!

We had a meeting with the Area Manager for Visayas, Naty Silorio, to strategically plan about our next move.

But before getting to that, I like to tell you a bit about Naty. Naty just came from Iloilo province. Apart from her own house rooted in Tacloban, where the it was hit hard by the typhoon last night, she said she was really worried about Plan staff and their families in Tacloban whom we couldn’t contact.   

“Last night I was praying, I was actually praying. I am 57 years old. This is for the first time in my life to experience such cyclone. It was so bad. I experienced typhoon Undang and all these things. But this one is the worst,” Naty said.

This hasn’t been a good sign since the beginning…

As monitoring the news on local TV channel, I couldn’t even understand any words, but by that time I noticed the meeting room was suddenly silent. The announcer kept narrating something real fast and paused.

Another screen appeared, that was the Tacloban city. Trees were on the side with damaged buildings and broken windows. It didn’t look like a main road to me, everything was all over the places. Villagers were looking at left over destroyed wreck of their own possessions. Death bodies were left on the road. 

This fact is breaking everybody’s heart. We were all speechless and shaded for moments.

[…]

All of us in the room were thinking the same thing. Last thing I know, Mardy Halcon, Plan Philippines communications manager said, ‘We are heading to Tacloban. meet at 7.30 AM at the airport tomorrow.’

Thus, my schedule for tomorrow is booked. We then bought one way flight (don’t know when to be coming back), earliest one in the morning which will reach there by lunch time.  

May force be with all Filipinos! Your spirit is waterproof.

Nov 8

Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda [Day2]

Hello again from Manila. 

Me and my Plan Philippines colleagues have been watching the situation unfold through local media on TV here.

I’ve seen roofs ripped off houses because by the strong wind. There are some areas that have flooded, with everything — bikes, papers, plastic, vans, trees, glass, garbage — being sucked into the water. There’s been so much damage. Countless coconut trees have been ripped from the ground. It was really frightening to see. This storm is unbelievably powerful. You couldn’t even see the road clearly for the rain.

Latest update as of now regarding Plan’s response;

  • Plan Philippines’ prepositioned 4,000 water kits and 4,000 pieces of sheeting have been sent to the barangays on Wednesday so if the roads become impassable, these items are already at the community and can be quickly distributed. These can serve about 20,000 people.
  • Plan Philippines purchased an additional 4,000 sets of hygiene kits, 4,000 kits of infant kits, and plastic sheeting for 4,000 families for our response. Further procurement is in process.
  • All Plan Philippines PU GO Teams have been activated and will be conducting risk assessment soon as it safe to go out. Our country office GO Team and emergency response teams will conduct disaster assessment starting Saturday, and will also join a multiple government/UN/iNGO cluster assessment on Sunday.
  • Plan Philippines’ community development facilitators in Visayas region have started visiting evacuation centers to give children some art materials to keep them busy and keep their minds away from howling winds. To narrate what it is like in Southern Leyte province of Visayas, click here http://planasia.tumblr.com/post/66354753833/yolandaph
Nov 7

Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda [Day 1]

I arrived in Manila late night. The city in the dark night is quiet and clam. There are only shining lights from the buildings.

Back in September this year. If one could remember Metro Manila was hit by Typhoon Usagi, killing at least 15 people in the Philippines. Many areas were caught up by torrential rains including Makati City where I’m staying at the moment. I’m glad this time round at least some parts of this Metro city will remain dry.   

What we are worrying right now is the Super Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda which is considered the strongest storm of the year, heading for central Philippines.

With the winds in excess of 240 kilometers per hour (149 mph), according to the CNN, it will say hello to on the landfall tomorrow morning in Eastern Visayas region. It is expected to hit Plan Philippines’ working areas - We are talking about more than 40,000 children who are now in danger!

I’m now ready to support Plan Philippines communications work. I will attend the crisis management team meeting first thing tomorrow morning and will see how we are going to manage it from there.

#prayforthephilippines

Quick snap @Bangkok bike

Quick snap @Bangkok bike

Mysterious darkness

Mysterious darkness

Arts of tree..

Arts of tree..

Fate

Fate

Naughty one pretending to be quiet…

Naughty one pretending to be quiet…

E-l-e-p-h-a-n-t.

E-l-e-p-h-a-n-t.

Pouring rain of light in the dark night…sleep tight! Tmr is just another day!

Pouring rain of light in the dark night…sleep tight! Tmr is just another day!

Mar 2
To remember… (at London England)

To remember… (at London England)