Samar folk say they will rebuild town from scratch
HERNANI, Eastern Samar—Officials and residents of this coastal town said they would rebuild their community from scratch, away from its present location, after the town center and nearby villages were washed out by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
At least 70 residents of Hernani town were killed and thousands of others rendered homeless by a gigantic storm surge generated by Yolanda (international name: “Haiyan”).
The storm also left more than 100 people injured. Three others remain missing, according to the provincial disaster council.
“The [washed-out] areas [near the shore] are no longer safe to live in,” said Hernani Mayor Edgar Boco.
Relocating the town a kilometer away from the sea is best to prevent a repeat of the disaster, he said.
Boco said he was considering condemning the destroyed town.
“[The situation] is getting worse. There is no use rebuilding the town, [as it will be washed] out again in a few years, considering the effects of climate change,” he said.
All villages destroyed
All of Hernani’s 13 villages were destroyed by the storm surge, which, according to survivors, reached as high as 6 meters, or as tall as a two-story building in some areas.
The provincial disaster council said the storm surge completely destroyed 1,655 houses.
Badly damaged were the town hall, the public market and other government buildings, the council said.
In Batang village, all but one of the 186 houses there were destroyed. The village hall was among the structures destroyed.
Survivors said they knew Yolanda was a supertyphoon, but they thought it carried only strong winds.
“Supertyphoons have hit Hernani in past decades but none of them came with storm surges as powerful as this one,” said Juny Dais, 60, a fisherman.
Most of the fatalities were trapped in their houses and drowned. Others were killed by flying or falling debris.
Boco said the local government gave out early warnings about the unusual strength of Yolanda, but many residents decided against leaving their houses, which they believed were strong enough to withstand a supertyphoon.
“Members of a family in Batang were even having a drinking spree just hours before the typhoon struck,” Boco said.
The next time orders for forced evacuation are issued, Boco said he would enforce them “martial-law style.”
“If we may have to bodily carry the people out of their houses, we will do so,” he said.
Boco said he would also push for the passage of a local ordinance that would ban residents from living in areas near the sea.
Some residents expressed hopes other people in the town would consider the mayor’s plan to relocate the communities.
“It will be difficult to convince people to move out because their land is the only thing left to them after this tragedy. Perhaps it can be done if the government will give the land for relocation for free,” said Jessie Busa, who lost his houses in Barangays 2 and 3.
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