’Berg scientist’s family safe after typhoon

Nov 20, 2013

Remegio ConfesorThe days and hours before and after Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on Nov. 7 were very tense for Heidelberg’s Dr. Rem Confesor, a research scientist with the National Center for Water Quality Research. Born and raised on the Philippine island of Batad, Rem spent several agonizing days checking on the safety of his parents and siblings. In addition to the huge loss of life and property destruction, communication systems also fell victim to the super storm.

Batad is a remote coastal community about 100 miles from the capital of Manila. As Rem learned, his hometown was in the direct path of the storm and sustained severe structural damage from winds the equivalent of an F-3 tornado as well as significant storm surge. “The devastation was just enormous. More than 90 percent of the structures were damaged,” he said. “Nearly all of the residences along the shoreline were washed away.”

Still, his attention was focused on the well-being of his parents, who live about 60 miles from the eye of the storm, and his brother, who lives in Estancia, about 15 miles from their birthplace in Batad.

For four or five days, Rem tried to reach his family on Facebook, through email and by phone, to no avail. “That was really a really frustrating time,” he said. Finally, Rem heard from his nephew in Manila that everyone was safe, including his sister who lives on another island. Three or four days after Haiyan struck, phone and electric service was restored to his parents’ home, and he has since been able to speak to them.

“I actually wanted to fly back home if I could have,” Rem said.

Nonetheless, there is still great need for aid. Because there are 7,000 individual islands that comprise the Philippines, coordinating services and relief efforts can be a challenge. But Rem is seeing progress for the estimated 3 million people affected by Haiyan. “It’s so hard to have a good estimate because communication is still not good and relief services have picked up,” he said.

For many, the rebuilding/reconstruction process will be long. “The people are resilient and have adapted to the storms. We can move on.”

The most effective way to help provide needed resources is by making a monetary gift designated to the relief effort. Those who would like to make a gift are encouraged to direct it to the Philippine National Red Cross at www.redcross.org.ph/donate.