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November 20, 2013 4:16 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Written by Andrew Maccalla


It’s after midnight here after another extremely busy day and we’re up at 5am tomorrow to head to the northern tip of Cebu and over to Bantayan Island so I can’t write much but I have to mention this story.

After meeting with the local Red Cross, the local Disaster Management Agency, and the Governor of Cebu, an extremely gracious and friendly man, we headed north to Bogo, a city on the NE coast of Cebu which was hit hard by the Typhoon. Over 90% of homes were damaged and over 500 families are living in shelters according to the local officials.

We arrived at the Provincial Hospital and found the Israeli army/medical team had set up their field operations in the yard of the hospital and were treating hundreds of patients per day, many of whom were injured in the Typhoon. These guys were also some of the first on the scene after the Haiti earthquake and performed surgeries on patients who suffered some of the most traumatic injuries. They arrived into Bogo about 4 days after the Typhoon in their military planes and arrive on-site as a fully-functional trauma care hospital. They did some major surgeries after the Typhoon but are now transitioning things back to the local hospital as it settles down.

Photo by Jodie WilalrdInside we met Dr. Carlos Layese Jr, a Pediatrician and the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital. The place was bustling–over 200 babies born every month, TB isolation ward, busy operating theater. Every single bed was full when we went there, in fact, they are an 80 bed hospital with 150 patients inside, so the hallways were jam-packed with patients. Dr. Doug Gross, a pediatrician and a member of the US Federal DMAT team, got to spend some time with patients, including a three-day old baby with pneumonia who was having an extremely hard time breathing. Looking at this baby, you could instantly tell something was wrong because her whole body moved up and down as she struggled to breathe at an incredibly fast pace. They had her on oxygen and IV antibiotics and Dr. Doug said that was the correct procedure and hopefully the antibiotics would kill whatever it was making her labor for breath but it was still very hard to witness. The fear is that if she gets any worse, they don’t have a ventilator for her to use and so eventually she won’t be able to breathe on her own any longer.

Dr. Layese and Dr. Gross with the Israeli MREIt’s incredibly sad to see something like that where for a lack of a piece of equipment, a mother might lose her child. It’s not for any lack of medical care or training–just a simple lack of a material good–which happens to be what Direct Relief focuses on. However, these are the times when you see true ingenuity come out as well. Dr. Layese showed us the pediatric ICU where they did have one working incubator. However, whenever they had to transfer babies to another facility, they never had a good way to keep the baby warm, that is until the Israelis came with their cases of MREs. As I now know after eating my first MRE in Tacloban, they come with a heating element that activates when surrounded by water. Well, Dr. Layese realized that same heater that is usually discarded from the MRE after it’s used, could be used inside the incubator to keep the baby warm in transit. So now when they transfer babies, they carefully surround them with these mini heaters to keep them warm on the 2 hour journey to Cebu city.

A Day in Tacloban

November 19, 2013 1:59 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


Our flight in was delayed because the infrastructure at the airport is completely destroyed.  During the landing the pilot circled the airport several times waiting to be cleared.  I was able to take my first few shots from the window prior to our landing.


The airport was completely destroyed , the entire infrastructure is gone. The control tower consists of  dangling wires, huge panes of glass broken and shift lighting.




Aid has arrived hundreds of pallets are stack throughout the tarmac and helicopter dance around each other to secure an airlift load so they can drop them on the island near by.  Today is the first day people on these islands will receive food and aid since the Typhoon, is has been 9 days.  I spoke to Jeffery  from the Navy – Intelligence and Mission Planning – he stated.  “As of tonight, HSC-12 alone has been able to deliver well over 260,000 lbs. of food and water, as well as over 70 medical personnel with supplies and military personnel.  We have been able to re supply remote areas an islands inaccessible by road or any other asset as well as survey villages, and airfields.”





Once we arrived at the airport we had to secure transport of our equipment and medical supplies to two area hospitals, Bethany Hospital and Dive World.  Usually you can arrange transportation in advance but in this case, because the entire island was destroyed, we had to depend on the generosity of others.  While on the plane I met a woman, Vicky, from the news organization GMA, she agreed to give our team transport to the hospital.  I learned Vicky was a Diane Swayer type news reporter, full of style and grace in the mist of disaster, she was a bit of a celebrity.   It turns out that GMA had actually shipped their car over form Cebu to cover the story.




Vicky decided to  include Direct Relief International mission into her story and it played live later in the evening.  Here is the link


The rest of the day consisted of meetings with top officials from each hospital.  Bethany Hospital was closed due to the level of destruction.  With that said, they did have a triage area setup to assistant with follow up care treating infection broken bones etc.  Below is a picture of their pharmacy, the works are trying desperately to recover any useable medical supplies such as IV fluids, anything that was not damage.



I did not have time to write any more as we are headed to cover Cebu – so I have included Andrews (team leader)  account below:

 It’s pretty tough to comprehend the destruction that this storm caused–on par with the Moore, OK tornadoes but in a vastly larger area. Power lines are all dangling from the air, there is no running water, timber from houses look like matchsticks and they blanket the ground for as far as you can see. There’s no food or water to to be had on the island other than the bits that are being distributed so people are leaving by the plane and boatload to refugee camps in Cebu. Many people are literally starving. At one point we saw a food truck distribution line that must have gone on for a mile. When we walked down an alley to give some food out to a family thinking we could remain largely inconspicuous, we were instantly swarmed by another 50 or so people and unfortunately didn’t have enough to go around.

Our night consisted of a meal of MREs under flashlight in a seriously damaged Leyte Park Hotel which has become a hub of humanitarian activity. Tents and hammocks are set up in every flat part of the yard and in any trees that are still standing. I know people say the aid efforts have been slow to arrive and help the people (although logically when you think about it, it makes sense as orgs have to organize personnel, supplies, and equipment from all over the world and try to get it all into the same small space–in this case an island chain–at the same time when the airports and seaports are all damaged as are the staff who work in them) but it sure is here now. The hum of generators can be heard all night as people are frantically making their plans for the next day.

Jodie somehow managed to get us into a room, which of course didn’t have electricity or water, and inside it looked like everything had been left just as it was when the storm hit–like the people who were there 10 days before left and never came back.

In its previous state, the hotel would have surely been an amazing place. The rooms had amazing views and I took my place out on the deck and managed to sleep outside until it started raining on me in the early part of the morning.

I will try to make some sense of what we saw and heard in the hospital visits we made yesterday and how it is that these people have such amazingly positive outlooks on things. But I’m not quite there yet. Still baffles me.




Headed to Tacloban

November 17, 2013 11:57 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Our team of four have all arrived in Manila and we head to Tacloban tomorrow. Myself and Andrew Maccalla Emergency Response Manager Direct Relief International, Joe Harrison from Direct Relief,  and Dr. Doug Gross from UC Davis, are packed and ready to go after getting our hotel in a bag – with tents and water and food rations.


Hotel in a bag

The plan is to set up camp next to the airport with Team Rubicon, the group of military veterans we’ve worked with in previous disasters, and then make our way to Tacloban City, about 13kms from the airport. The word is that while food and water and medicine are still hard to come by (a local official said that the first resident died from hunger today) transport around the city is even harder. We’re hoping to catch a ride with the US Military or the Red Cross, who we’ve already provided a large amount of medical supplies over the last 10 days.




It seems that while aid supplies are starting to arrive into the area, they still are having great difficulty getting it out to the local populations. Truck drivers have said they don’t want to drive across the island because of looting so there’s scenes of helicopters just dropping materials from the sky. We are going to try to make our way to the Divine Word Hospital who have been out of supplies for 7 days but still have patients coming in the doors and not leaving because they have nowhere else to go.



Written by Andrew Maccalla and Jodie Willard



November 13, 2013 9:33 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

     My first day as I wander the streets I struggle with getting my first shot.  The streets are narrow, people are closed and the heat will take you down.  It’s very apparent tourists have hit this hood hard, so I put my camera on my back and walk.  Not sure where the heck I am going, but I do know that I  am  not going to stick my camera in someone’s face.   Actually, I don’t really stick my camera in peoples face anyway, I always start with a nod, one with an attitude of course. The kind where you kick your chin up, no smile, just a serious look I give.  Then when we make eye contact I smile.   I like to build a relationship, a dance if you will.   It’s all in the eyes because as you might guess I don’t speak the language.

Cuba includes Yank Tanks, laundry from the window line and a mosaic of buildings.   I do believe the spaghetti of wires are holding the crumbling buildings together.


Yank Tanks – The classics of 1950’s  – Fords, Buicks and Pontiacs a collectors dream.  The present estimation is there are 60,000 of them still driving on the roads today.  Some beautifully restored and others falling apart.