I Was There... in the Philippines helping those hit by Typhoon Haiyan

Thousands of people died and millions more were made homeless when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November.

Relief worker Simon Clarke was dispatched to the disaster zone to provide devastated communities with urgently needed shelter and supplies.

The former soldier, who works for charity ShelterBox, saw first-hand the destruction and human tragedy the typhoon caused.

Here he tells of his journey to the remote islands of the Asian country and details whole towns levelled by the storm.


"I was in London when I got the call asking if I would go to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as it was known locally. That's when my journey started.

It took 12 hours on a plane to get to the Philippines. That was the easy part. I then took a domestic flight to get me onto the island of Cebu, which was badly affected by the typhoon.

Once there I travelled with the rest of my team by car for five hours to the northern part of the island. From there we took a two hour ferry to the island of Bantayan.

Bantayan was right in the path of the typhoon and as we came off the ferry at dusk that Friday night, even in the semi-darkness you could tell it had been hit hard.

Millions of people were made homeless after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November, devastating all …

The streets were pitch black except for fires either for cooking or burning the debris that the typhoon had brought. All the power lines had been brought down and, as we saw in the morning, wherever you looked trees, both palm and mahogany, had been snapped like twigs.

Then there were houses. As the name would suggest ShelterBox helps provide emergency shelter for those left homeless after a disaster. Unfortunately it wasn't difficult to see that we had a job on our hands. In every direction the Robinson Crusoe-type houses had been ripped wall from wall.

The people here have a hard life as it is and there isn't much room for emergency planning, so when something like Yolanda strikes there's really nowhere to hide.

Those with the least resources have the most poorly constructed houses. Those with concrete houses and corrugated tin roofs fared a little better but the palm frond dwellings just disintegrated in the 200mph winds.

What really compounds problems out here is all the children to look after. The average size of a family here is about six. That's a lot of people to look after when you've lost your house.

SImon, a former soldier works for charity ShelterBox. He saw first-hand the destruction and human tragedy the typhoon …


We then went from Bantayan to Guintacan - a small island seven miles from Cebu - on an outrigger fishing boat.

The people there are very resourceful and resilient but you can only do so much when you live on an island that has so little access. There are a handful of bikes and one small pick-up truck but nothing in the way of spare building materials.

There, we came across Maria and her six children. She and her husband were living in a shack about the size of your average shed until we arrived and gave them a tent. It isn't a permanent solution but it's going to help while they rebuild their lives.

Being so far away from the main islands, the people there get largely bypassed by international aid.

It's understandable as it is difficult to know where to start when something like this happens. ShelterBox tries to go to these outlying areas and help where others find it hard to reach.

The people of the Philippines will rebuild in time and they certainly appreciate the help that they have received from the international community."