Desperate families beg for help along roads framed by typhoon devastation
Struggle continues to get aid through to those most in need
“There’s nothing to buy,” says one girl manning her parents’ convenience shop. “We are all out of stock.”
The buildings here make it look like a bomb went off in the centre of town: metal sheeting has torn huge gaping holes in shopfronts and flying debris has knocked statues off their pedestals. The flimsiest houses – those made of thatch and bamboo – have disintegrated organically into the hillside, the remnants of their insides scattered around like litter.
About 20 families have taken up refuge in the magnificent pink stone church at the top of the hill, where a statue of St Vincent Ferrer looks out over the caved-in city.
“I went back to see my house yesterday and it was totally destroyed. I just stood there and cried,” says Nilvic Ursal (27), a mother of two who plans on staying in the church’s community hall – which had its own roof blown off during Haiyan – as long as she can. “There was nothing left but water and mud. We have no way to fix it.”
At least in the church there is some food, explains Fr Dave Jurcales, who says it may take two months for the city’s electricity lines to be replaced.
“A trickle of aid has come into Bogo in the last day – we’re co-ordinating with our own agencies and the city is distributing its own aid. The government is giving out rice, noodles and dry goods, and we’re providing water, shelter and electricity from a generator.”
Not far from the church sits Bogo’s squat sports complex, a covered basketball court that doubled as the city’s evacuation centre until its roof was blown off and water started pouring in everywhere. Now it serves as the main warehouse and distribution centre for relief goods that arrive in on trucks from Cebu, 97km (60 miles) away.
The complex is also home to more than 520 people, almost all of whom are sleeping on the cold concrete floor with only a cardboard box as a bed.
“There are four families sharing this space with me,” says Ruchelle Minincilio (39), as she cradles her baby, pointing to a space no larger than 6ft by 12ft.
“My house is gone. There is nowhere else to go.”
Inside, the wooden basketball court is covered in water. Tents have been erected to protect the stacks of rice from damage and a gaggle of police hang around in the stands, chatting.
Bogo’s mayor, Celestino Martinez jnr, is sitting at a table underneath one of the tents overseeing operations, where he says that, without exact figures for how many families are in need, the aid his city really requires is still unknown. “The aid only started coming in yesterday, because for two days we were unreachable,” he says, referring to impassable roads and downed telecommunications.
“We don’t know how many homeless [there are], how many victims. The problem is if you give one [sack of rice to survivors], they want two. If you give two, they want three. So you tell them: ‘No, just come back tomorrow.’ The aid is coming in from the government, from NGOs, from private donors. It all has to be co-ordinated and divided at local level and then sent out.”