UNI Professor Says Typhoon Haiyan Recovery Continues

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - "I don't know how to begin to describe it. It almost looks like a nuclear bomb," said Dr. Michele Devlin via satellite phone. She's been in the Philippines for the past couple weeks, assisting the Red Cross with recovery efforts in Tacloban City.

Devlin, a professor of public health at the University of Northern Iowa, says relief workers continue to wade through miles of debris and devastation, more than month after Typhoon Haiyan.

"There are about a million Filipinos who have lost their homes," she said. "There are communities that are still getting food and water delivered to them, because they've yet to have water systems cleaned or set up."

Dr. Devlin said while some villages and towns still struggle for food and water, others have moved on to building permanent shelter.

"What really did the most damage and killed most of the people was that you had what's called a storm surge, and it's essentially like a tsunami, a tidal wave," Devlin explained. That tidal wave also swept away jobs for tens of thousands of Filipinos. Devlin said relief agencies expect it to take months, if not years until the island nation's economy and way of life approaches some semblance of normalcy.

Entire towns have been turned into graveyards. "In one town where 1,800 people had drowned...they had to put them in mass graves in the city park," Devlin told us. She described talking to typhoon victims in another area, where "we were just talking with them and these two little 7 and 8 year-old girls started singing 'Joy to the World'...surrounded by, frankly, thousands of dead family members, relatives and villagers."

But despite that, Devlin said the Filipino people remain resilient and grateful for the help they're still receiving.

"They come up to you, and they thank you in tears," Devlin told us. "I cannot tell you the number of people who came up to us, again, in utter devastation, and they've lost multiple family members that have been drowned and killed, and they'll come up and say, 'Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.'"

Devlin expects to return to Iowa in early January.

A local grassroots group is still raising money for typhoon victims. If you'd like to donate, you can visit this website: http://philippinesrelief.weebly.com/
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