Visayas, Port Carmen: The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan

Sue Woods, a regular contributor to noonsite, was moored in Pt. Carmen, Cebu Island, during Typhoon Haiyan. Here she reports on how the local community prepared for the arrival of the typhoon and what worked well to keep their boat safe during this monster storm. The northern end of the island of Cebu was in the path of the typhoon and sustained serious damage.

Published 10 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Tuesday 12th November, and 4 days since Typhoon Haiyan roared across the Philippines.

According to the local news reports, there are massive relief operations underway in the worst hit areas and the reports of casualties and damage to property and the environment are of tragic proportions.

The typhoon made landfall on the eastern coast of Samar. Samar and Leyte seem to have sustained the worst damage and this is where there are the most casualties. However, clear reports in English are difficult to obtain at the moment.

The northern end of the island of Cebu was also in the path of the typhoon and apparently sustained serious damage. We haven’t travelled north of Pt Carmen, so can’t report firsthand about that, but one of the yachtees from Carmen rode up to Bogo Town 2 days ago. He said that there were a lot of damaged buildings there, with many trees and power lines down along the way. One news report also said that Malapascua Island was in ruins. We have been hearing the ambulance sirens travelling down from the north, heading for Cebu City, ever since Saturday afternoon.

Further south on Cebu there has been only slight damage overall. Around Carmen and Danao there have been big trees blown down and it seems all the banana trees have been pushed over. Some of the smaller foliage has been stripped and battered, but generally, it looks like it will recover quickly. There have been some poorly built huts and buildings destroyed and roofs blown off, signs were blown down and power poles pushed over, but no major structural damage sustained.

The boatyards of Pt Carmen have also just had some light damage. One shed lost half its roof, which ended up on our dock, just 20 ft off the back of Solita. Pepe’s workshop tarp roof is in tatters but the corrugated roof is intact. We are staying at Pepe’s. All is good at Zekes – no damage there at all, as far as we can see.

There were no yachts in either boatyard damaged. We think several factors made this possible in the face of such a severe storm:

  • The yachts were all tied down very well, with many warps across to both sides of the inlet and to other boats. Some boats had their anchors ashore and dug into the ground. Owners generally stripped off all awnings, sails, etc, and everyone worked together in a very supportive manner. The yard workers helped us tirelessly to secure all the boats.
  • The geographical layout of the inlet provided a lot of shelters. The inlet is very narrow and is surrounded by levy banks. Between the inlet and the sea are several low lying barrier islands and reefs. The nearby hills to the west also protect the area from wind.
  • The typhoon crossed this area in daylight, during a low neaps tide, and there was no storm surge here.
  • Although we were only 35-40 miles south of the eye of the storm, we would have had much stronger winds if we had been in the northern quadrant.
  • The storm was travelling so fast and moved on within a couple of hours so it did not batter the area for long.

We realise we have been very lucky to have escaped serious damage in this typhoon, but it has been reassuring to note that with good preparation, this inlet does provide a very secure anchorage.

This area lost power from mid-Friday and it was reconnected to the towns by Sunday and to the boatyards by Monday. Water has also been reconnected. We have had good internet connection throughout the whole drama. One problem for us, and probably for many others, was that all the ATM’s were down. I had to travel to Metro Pacific yesterday – 20 miles away by bus – to get some cash. Hopefully, the ATMs in Danao will be operating today or tomorrow.

The airport in Cebu City was only closed for a short time on Friday. We have been seeing helicopters going up and down the coast often during the day since Saturday.

The typhoon moved across the Visayas and onto Mindoro. We heard reports before the typhoon arrived that many tourists were stuck at Boracay and at the nearby Caticlan Airport, but haven’t heard how they fared. Puerto Galera on Mindoro received a lot of wind and rain, but all boats on the yacht club moorings are safe and we haven’t heard of any major damage or casualties there. A friend on their yacht on one of the moorings emailed:

“All the boats in the mooring field were hanging and spinning in different directions, seas were small, some rain, heavy at times but not a huge bother. The wind on the surface may be 15-20, our wind speed at the masthead (60ft), was reading 8kts one second then zero then 20kts then 5kts, as the boat was pushed or healed over or spun. Of course, this was after dark. It was a constant entertainment watching the ferries and ships drag and try to re-anchor. The winds for them must have been 50kts or so, and everything was well lit with all their spotlights. The spume and spray looked like fast moving ground fog.  At first light, four ships-ferries were hard aground on a falling tide. One, a 250ft 4 deck ferry, is lying abeam high on the beach of a very slick resort, but it missed the pier. Another 200ft landing craft is on the reef just to the north of us, the other two are east of it.”

Further west, Busuanga Island was also was badly hit by the typhoon. Coron Town seemed to have sustained a lot of damage. Two friends emailed some comments:

“We are fine, an exciting night watching every tree around the resort shredded and demolished, followed by the ceiling and roof collapsing on our heads – not your usual hotel stay.”

“There are only 2 internet providers here in Coron, the Smart tower has fallen over, so with only one provider for the whole island, the internet and mobile phone system is jammed.“

“Went to Coron Town yesterday, and the devastation is awful – there are massive 100-year-old trees lying everywhere, and not a standing tree still has foliage. The lush green countryside is lush no more.”

“There were 2 yachts and dozens of local bangkas up on the shore here, or sunk.”

“There is significant damage but is fixable. All your friends are safe. Yellow n black Pirate ship and another yacht grounded, many bangkas lost and 2 dead on boats in front of the resort.”

The severity of this typhoon has certainly caused massive damage on a wide scale throughout the Philippines. The locals here at Pt Carmen are surprisingly accepting of the situation. They started their clean-ups immediately and are all getting on with things as best they can. We have no idea how those in the more devastated areas are coping. We just hope that humanitarian aid comes quickly and effectively.

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