By: Olkeriil Ngirudelsang
A family of nine living in Babeldaob found themselves with out a home following the aftermath of typhoon Surigae.
“Our house has been here for a long time so it is quite old” said one female family member. It has been their primary dwelling for many years and she lives there with her kids, her brother and his children, including their old age father who is 69 years old. The house was also a home to four children, a baby boy who just turned one year old, two more boys who are eight and 13 as well as a little girl who is just four years old.
In an interview, she stated that the family was not aware of the coming typhoon, nor did they know of any evacuation center that was open in their state in anticipation of the storm. Since their house was situated on high grounds, she revealed that they became frightened of the weather as the winds intensified.
At around 8pm on Friday night, they had become so fearful for their safety that they left their home in pouring rain to seek shelter in two of their relatives’ cement houses. The big family was divided so while most of them went to one house, a few others took refuge in another home also belonging to their relative.
“We returned back the next day to find our home blow away and totally destroyed” said the family. Even the freezer was broken and wet and all of their stored foods were completely damaged. They ended up burning what was left of their home for it was all torn down beyond repair by the typhoon and scattered all over their yard.
Fortunately, at the side of where their house used to be, a little hut that was used for hot bath during a first childbirth ceremony (Blil a osurech) was able to survive typhoon Surigae. That is where they are currently living in; all nine of them. “It is very confined so we are all cramped in it for now” added the family member.
To date, only their running water had been restored and they expressed great gratitude that at the least they have water to cook their meals. However, they still have no power and no telephone connection.
One family member said that she went to Palau Red Cross office three days later to report her family’s situation. She said “I’m thankful if there will be any little help but if not, it’s no problem as these are natural disasters so what can we do”. She further added “This is nothing to be ashamed of so I give you permission to tell my story and please even bring it to the internet so that fellow Palauans off island may see it and pray for us.”
Vice President and Chairman of the National Emergency Management Office Uduch J. Senior asserts at this week’s press conference that NEC and Palau National Weather Station “fulfilled their responsibilities” putting out announcements about the storm progression and disputed statements that public was not properly informed about the storm. She said announcements were issued as early as Monday morning, a total of 10 announcements were issued over the entire period.
Despite efforts to put out announcements, power went out in most of the states by Thursday when the it was still reported as a “tropical storm”. Announcement of typhoon condition was made at 1am on Friday when nearly the entire island had power blackout.
She added that one “lessons learned” from this crisis to take forward was to improve information dissemination to public in emergency situations especially when power is disrupted.
President Surangel Whipps Jr. announced that the United States government donated $100,000 to Red Cross to help with such victims of the Typhoon Surigae. Australian Government donated $50,000 to help with disaster assessments and Japan Government donated 10 generators, 20 water purifiers and 500 fresh water containers to help with the disaster recovery.
“Having this assistance available, does not mean that the government stops looking for assistance to help those affected. We will continue to look for ways to assist those most affected,” assured President Whipps Jr.