Minneapolis relief worker: Devastation in Philippines 'incredible'

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 20, 2013 - 8:03 PM
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A solemn search over after 12 days: Typhoon survivor Lito Nyegas on Wednesday rested near the body bag containing his child at Tacloban, Philippines. It took Nyegas 12 days to find his child’s body after waves carried away the child far from their house. His wife and two other children also died when Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban on Nov. 8.

Photo: Aaron Favila • Associated Press,

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After a week on the ground in an area of the Philippines particularly hard hit by the typhoon, Graham Eastmond with the Minneapolis-based American Refugee Committee said the devastation is some of the worst he’s experienced in more than a decade of relief work. Two nights of torrential rains have made matters worse.

“It’s like everything was taken and then thrown and then taken from the ground and just rolled and thrown around and then the typhoon whipped it around vertically and then just dumped it,” Eastmond said on Wednesday in a telephone interview. “The amount of debris is incredible. I haven’t seen anything like it before.”

Eastmond’s work has been centered near Tacloban, 360 miles southeast of Manila, where power remains out across the city and a nighttime curfew remains in effect because of continuing reports of looting.

Eastmond and his team are supporting a group of local doctors carrying out mobile clinics across coastal towns south of Tacloban and has distributed emergency shelter kits that include tarp, rope and mats to several hundred people.

Concerned about health issues with people living nearby, the group is also working with another team to identify and begin recovery operations for human remains still covered by debris.

The city, the capital of Leyte province, was without food or water for days, setting off a frenzy of looting, before roads were cleared and aid and supplies started to trickle in. Eastmond said authorities were encouraging merchants to reopen their shops to provide supplies, and many residents were starting to recycle storm-damaged materials to rebuild their homes.

“It’s down to the government and local officials to come back to open those shops up because the items inside are desperately needed,” he said.

Eastmond, a Mahtomedi resident, is scheduled to return home at the end of the November. Another team from the American Refugee Committee is scheduled to be on the ground for several months. As part of an effort to bolster the local economy, Eastmond said cash donations rather than clothes or other items would help in the disaster relief.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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