ORMOC, Philippines: As thousands queue to leave the devastation wreaked by the huge Philippines typhoon, a stream of passengers carrying food, medicine and water comes the other way, desperate to help family stuck in the medieval horror of the disaster zone.
Some have travelled half way around the world to rescue parents or siblings, while others scraped together all they could from poorly-paid jobs in Manila, begging and borrowing from friends.
“That’s my village,” sobbed Nick Cantuja, pointing to the shoreline as her ferry docked in the smashed city of Ormoc. “Our house is gone now. Everything… it’s gone,” she told AFP.
Cantuja, who works as a driver for a family in Manila, was coming back to Ormoc with as much as she could carry to help relatives left destitute when one of the most powerful storms ever recorded barrelled through the central Philippines on November 8.
“There is little relief reaching my village,” she said. “My family, my cousins, my neighbours — they are all experiencing hunger and thirst.
“Yesterday, a Red Cross team was able to reach there but it’s not enough,” she added.
Cantuja, 37, borrowed money from friends in Manila to fill two big boxes with rice, noodles, sardines, coffee, candles, flashlights and anything else she could gather to tide over her four brothers and sisters and their families.
She also brought large sheets of canvas for a makeshift tent that would protect them from the elements in a part of the country where the downpours can be fierce.
Other passengers in the ship were bringing chain saws to help clear debris and generators to provide electricity. Officials say it will be weeks — months, maybe — before power is properly restored.
The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Around 1.9 million lost their homes.
Thousands are dead, many more are fleeing scenes of almost unimaginable horror; whole cities laid to waste, where corpses fester on the side of roads.
Many of the arriving ferry passengers were met by emotional family, the joy at seeing relatives again tempered by the awfulness of their plight.
But most of those at the pier in Ormoc are trying to leave, jostling for a place on a ferry to Cebu.
On Friday, hundreds of people lined up under a scorching sun, some of them cradling babies or holding young children in their arms. Many are from Ormoc, while others are from Tacloban, the city hardest hit by the monster typhoon.
“I want to leave!” shouted one woman. “There’s no food to eat, no water to drink. There’s no power.”
The devastation in Ormoc is absolute.
Not a single house in the town appears to have been spared by the 315 kilometre (196 mile) per hour winds that ripped off roofs, toppled trees and felled cables.
Help is getting through, but it is frustratingly slow.
Helicopters from the US military, which has set up a relief base at a nearby airport, hovered above the town as hundreds of people on the street below waved their arms in the hope they would bring food or water.
“Drop some on us,” shouted someone in the crowd. “We haven’t eaten a good meal for days”.
Elsewhere in the city of roughly 190,000 people, survivors mill around areas where relief supplies are being distributed or form long lines at the few remaining petrol stations, hoping for a few litres of fuel to ride their motorcycles away.
For Servantes Reamillo, arriving at Ormoc was the end of a long journey.
The 36-year-old aircraft maintenance worker was granted leave by his company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to fly to the Philippines to help his mother, nephew, brother and fiancee.
“A lot of things are in the news and I want to see them for myself to make sure they are okay,” he told AFP.
But Reamillo wasn’t bringing food that would last a few weeks; he was here to take his family to the capital, where he also owns a house.
“They will stay in Manila for a while,” he said. “There is nothing here in Ormoc.”
by Martin ABBUGAO