As most of the world knows, Super Typhoon Haiyan (Philippine name Yolanda) was one of the most violent storms ever to make landfall. On Friday, 8th November 2013 it brought death and devastation to parts of the central Philippines, most notably Tacloban City on the north-east coast of the island of Leyte. The death toll will never be known with certainty, but several thousands of people tragically lost their lives in the storm and tens of thousands of others lost their homes and possessions. Debate will rage as to whether more should have been done to get people to safety. Certainly both the path and the severity of the storm were very accurately predicted several days in advance of its arrival, and hopefully lessons will be learnt for the future.
Although the impact of the storm in the worst affected areas was truly horrific, and the legacy of that will remain for perhaps years to come, the size of the area badly affected was relatively small. Here, at the southernmost tip of the island of Leyte, we are about 120 km south of Tacloban City and there was no noteworthy damage to life or property. Very strong winds raged for about 4 hours, and many trees were brought down, but the wind was not strong enough to damage even the most basic of buildings. By early afternoon that day, the sun was out, there was only a stiff breeze and it was a pleasant day, with only the sea still churning fiercely as a reminder of the morning’s storm.
There is a very large geothermal electricity generation plant near Ormoc City in northern Leyte, which serves not only the island of Leyte but many other parts of the Visayas. The transmission lines were badly damaged in the storm and electricity was not restored in Padre Burgos until 25th November, some 2 1/2 weeks after the storm. As power outages are quite common many businesses and private residences have generators. There was a huge increase in the demand for fuel to service these generators, but the fuel distributors quickly got organised to send fuel tankers by ship from Cebu, and generators and public transport were able to operate without interruption.
Here in the province of Southern Leyte there were some knock-on effects from the lack of electricity and the damage to communication lines, with banks and ATM’s being unable to operate for a few days and small businesses, which need electricity but could not afford to run generator, (such as small bakeries) having to close. But food, water and, after just a few days, fuel were always in plentiful supply, public transport was fully operational and life in Southern Leyte was almost completely normal even before the electricity was restored on 25th November.
Communications from our guests and posts on various on-line travel fora indicate that many people are still concerned about conditions in large areas of the Philippines from Luzon to Mindanao. We cannot answer for other areas, but the only issue now facing visitors to Southern Leyte is that there are still only a reduced number of commercial flights operating in and out of Tacloban airport. Certainly Padre Burgos Castle Resort, and other resorts and hotels in Southern Leyte, are fully operational and all tourist activities and facilities are available. Most notably, the magnificent coral reefs in Sogod Bay were not damaged by the storm.