AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP) — Two days before the typhoon hit, officials rolled through this city with bullhorns, urging residents to get to higher ground or take refuge in evacuation centers. Warnings were broadcast on state television and radio.
Some left. Some didn’t.
Residents steeled themselves for the high winds, floods and mudslides that routinely come with the typhoons that afflict this tropical nation. But virtually no one was prepared for Typhoon Haiyan’s storm surge, a 6-meter-high (20-foot-high) wall of water headed straight for them.
“It was supposed to be safe,” said Linda Maie, who stayed in her one-room house more than half a kilometer (mile) inland. She had heard the warnings but said her Tacloban (tuk-LOH-ban) neighborhood “has never even flooded in my 61 years.”
Her family stocked up on canned food, water and candles and covered their TV, laptops and appliances in plastic bags. But when her 16-year-old daughter, Alexa Wung, awoke at 5 a.m. Friday to howling winds and heavy rain, it was clear that Haiyan was not a typical storm.
The house was shaking. Its wooden door frame and window hinges were banging. Peeking through the windows, Alexa saw doors and screens flying and crashing.
Their neighborhood was coming apart.
Water began seeping in through the doorway as Alexa huddled in the tiny house with her mother and brother. Then it burst through like an explosion, ripping half the door off and quickly flooding the room with knee-high water. Within minutes, it was chest-high.
By now, the family was on the dining table, watching in horror. Alexa’s brother, Victor Vincent, glanced at the ceiling as the precious pocket of air grew smaller. They thought of escaping, but Linda couldn’t swim.
Alexa checked her cell phone. It was 8:30 a.m. The icon for her mobile service provider was replaced with a circle with a slash through it.
“I knew then that even if we could scream for help, nobody in the world could hear us,” Alexa said. “We were cut off from everything.”
And the water was still rising.
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