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SOS families forced onto rooftops during Typhoon

Nanay Dottie cuddles a child as they remember the disaster
Nanay Dottie cuddles a child as they remember the disaster

"It was horrifying! I thought I was going to die!" exclaimed 11-year old Marie, when talking about the day that Typhoon Haiyan hit SOS Children's Village Tacloban. The stories that are reaching us from the Philippines demonstrate the fear, and heroism, experienced by those who survived the storm. Here we tell the story of Nanay Dottie, a retired SOS Mother living in Tacloban, and how she was forced onto a rooftop with an SOS family to escape rising water.

Before the storm

At two o’clock in the morning, everything was dark and quiet. Nanay Dottie, a retired SOS Mother, got out of bed and observed the eerie silence. Just after 3am, the first signs of the storm arrived when her light bulb blinked. Moments later, the electricity went off completely. 

Nanay was worried, and went to the nearest SOS family house. As she stepped outside, she was embraced by strong winds and rain. When she got to the house, she found SOS Mother Mayette wide awake and also worried. Seeking updates about the incoming storm, they turned on the battery-powered radio - but the news cut out, and didn't come back on-air.

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The Typhoon arrives

By 6am, winds were blowing strongly and rain poured heavily. Mama Mayette woke up her children and they all gathered together. With a sound which scared the whole family, a strong gust of wind broke the windows. Acting quickly they used their bed mattresses to cover and protect the children. 

“I was leaning the youngest child on the wall while he was drinking his milk, when I felt a sudden coldness on my feet”, said Nanay Dottie. “When I looked down, I saw water by the front door. I opened the door and was horrified by the scene outside!” The water was rising across the SOS Children's Village, and the wind and rain had got even stronger.

Mama Mayette and Nanay decided to put the children on the top of the study table for safety. But it quickly became clear that this wasn't high enough, as the water kept rising and would soon reach them. The last place they could go was all the way up into the roof.  

“We had to secure the children before we climbed up. I almost did not make it!  I was losing my strength. Thank God the Aunt at Mama Mayette’s house helped me out by letting me climb onto her shoulders. It was Mama Mayette who climbed last with water already at her shoulders”, said Nanay.

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"A hope of survival"

In the roof the women and children sat silently, while outside the storm roared. “The wind was so strong we were scared that the rooftop might fly off! I started praying to spare us from this catastrophe”, said Nanay. Just as she was praying, they saw an opening in the roof a few metres away. The wind had blown the sheet covering the rooftop, so that a small hole had been made. 

“We had no materials to use to destroy the roof if the water reached us. But then, there was a hole! A hole that could let a person pass through! Though it was risky to go up onto the roof, the sight of the hole gave us hope – a hope of survival”. 

Quickly, the hole became their only chance of escape. "We all went through the hole up to the rooftop, as the water had already started to come into the roof. With the turmoil outside we all got wet, but the thought of being together made us last in that situation for almost two hours."

Children are now in temporary shelter in CalbayogThe storm subsides, revealing devastation

After hours of fear, the rain lightened and the wind weakened. Those on the rooftop of Mama Mayette's family house, began to come down, and were faced with the horrific aftermath of the storm.  

“The whole house was wet!” shared Daniel, a 13-year old boy in Mama Mayette's family. “There was nothing left that was not wet, messy and destroyed. I was still shaking. I thought I was going to die!”

Thankfully, all families in the SOS Children's Village Tacloban survived the storm. Most had taken shelter in their roofs or rooftops. Arvin, a 9 year-old, explained how he survived, "Mama tied a rope around my waist which was connected to hers so that I will not get separated from her". 

The bravery of the SOS mothers, aunts and co-workers kept all children safe. They have now been moved to our Children's Village Calbayog, where they are living in temporary shelter and are receiving the support that they need. 

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