Sally caught in eye of the storm

British Red Cross press officer Nichola Jones took this photo of the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines
British Red Cross press officer Nichola Jones took this photo of the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

A volunteer from Todmorden is urging people to donate to the relief efforts in the Philippines after witnessing the devastating typhoon batter the islands.

Sally Kelling, whohas been living on the island of Bohol for the last six months while she volunteers with international development charity VSO, has described islands being “virtually flattened” and homes “turned to matchsticks” after typhoon Haiyan struck on Friday.

Official figures state that 1,833 people have been killed and 6.9 million have been affected by the typhoon.

Speaking to the Todmorden News this week, Sally said it has been a month of natural disasters.

“On October 15, a public holiday in the Philippines, I was sitting at my kitchen table working when the earth started to shake,” she said. “The island of Bohol had experienced a 7.2 strength earthquake about 40km away. Two weeks of hundreds of aftershocks followed, some very strong.

“Just over three weeks later we were hit by typhoon Haiyan. This time my house was full of elderly ladies, children and a baby - the typhoon had been very well forecast.

“Leyte, an island to the north, two hours away by ferry, has been virtually flattened by the typhoon. Homes have turned to matchsticks. Many thousands are feared dead.

“Amazingly my direct surroundings are almost unscathed, but neighbours and colleagues are desperately trying to contact families in Leyte.

“Some people in the communities I am working with have either lost or had their homes damaged by the earthquake or by the landsides that followed.”

In the aftermath of the typhoon, one of the biggest problems facing residents on the islands is damage to the water supply.

“Bohol is almost entirely dependent on electric power from Leyte, which means no power since the typhoon - no water in the taps, major problems in communicating and no water at the private drinking water stations,” Sally said.

“Many people only have access to wells, springs or the river and we all stored as much as we could before the typhoon arrived.

“This is nothing to what the people on neighbouring islands of Leyte, Samar and parts of Cebu face, with devastated water and waste water infrastructure. It may take weeks for the power to resume.”

Sally said the devastation has made her even more determined to continue her environmental work.

“With the aim of improving the management of the local environment I am here to try and help build the skills of local partners,” she said.

“The goal is increased resilience to the multiple natural disasters which communities in the Philippines face each year.

“The work here is a huge challenge and I may only scrape the tip of this iceberg.

“But there are many, many people here whose needs I see daily and right now many of them are desperate for help.”

To donate to the relief effort, visit www.dec.org.uk or www.redcross.org.uk.