Thursday, October 17, 2013

A typhoon in my neighbourhood

I have suffered very little from the typhoon, and the CEF office has suffered little too in comparison to most people and homes in Da Nang and Quang Nam.

I had no electricity for three days; it just came back about an hour ago. I have now heard that Da Nang had so much devastation that they still have no electricity. My phone is charging, but died 2 days ago. Having no way to contact people or for them to contact me is strange. Having 12 hours where I would have to walk through muddy waters up to my thighs to get anywhere with unknown contents in the water is an uncomfortable feeling. Luckily I didn't need to leave as we had a good supply of water, lamps and food.

I can take it all very lightly now, but on and off it was scary to hear the outside noises and trying to figure them out: tiles dropping on the ground, trees cracking and crashing, the thump of them hitting roofs and metal sheeting being blown off roofs and along the ground. Brief glimpses during lulls in the storm showed flooding and devastation.

I was lucky as the damage I experienced was minimal; only my garden was severely damaged and some plants destroyed, some edging tiles on the roof blown off, two fences blown down, the fish pond filled with plant debris, the verandah awning hinges destroyed and the awning slightly damaged from flapping and hitting the outside wall in the winds. The awning has temporarily been sort of repaired, the garden has taken 1 1/2 days to clear up and remove and replace the pond water. The fence man is busy with all the other blown down fences, and the roof tile man is impossible to contact and we will need to travel to Da Nang to get the tiles first anyway.

Most people in my neighborhood have been busy for the last two days trying to restore some order to their homes or have moved out totally and are now living with other family while earning the money to repair their homes.

One neighbor with a one month old house, lost all the tiles above one room and many roof edging tiles. They had to abandon that room. The second house on their land is small and old and lost most tiles and had to be totally abandoned. On the other side of me their matting and bamboo outdoor kitchen and living room were destroyed. Next door to them a betel nut tree cracked and fell through the roof of one of their homes. A huge tree just missed the main house by inches. One of their neighbors had their bamboo, matting and leaf home and kitchen totally destroyed.

One of my staff had their kitchen destroyed and the back wall of their home. Two of their neighbors totally lost their roofs. And so the damage goes on.... some people had the waters enter their homes and the mud left to deal with, but no other damage. I have learned that as the flood waters recede, the mud is brushed away with the waters. Most of us who live in Da Nang or Quang Nam have had some damage to deal with.

Besides what has been going on for me and my immediate neighbors I had no idea for two days what so ever of the consequences of the storm further away until I wandered afield yesterday afternoon.

I ventured around my community and local area and discovered the road to the beach was partly blocked with fallen tress, the beach road is partly washed away, the sand was blown over the road, the resorts along the beach front nearest to me are damaged too. Many homes have damaged roofs. The road side was covered in plant debris waiting to be picked up. The mud was thick on some of the road leading to the beach.

Above I just wrote; the following I wrote during the storm before my computer died.

I only have a little energy left in me and in the battery of my computer and have no internet now, so I am taking a rest from moping up water to write about being in a typhoon and what it is like. Basically it is tiring and very unknown.

The CEF office, also my home, has very little damage externally, but it has bathtubs of rain inside that obviously need moping up.

With the last lull in the typhoon we ate breakfast, a few hours later than usual as it was not a good time to eat due to the state of the typhoon. While we ate Lien explained how it would be back in full force shortly as was its way. She explained how many people forget this each year and rush off to work or go off on their motorbikes to see a friend or family and die in the process due to the sudden and harsh return of the vicious winds.

Now with the second lull in the winds and the rain, my friend Lien, is outside in motorbike helmet and waterproofs cutting down the banana tree branches that were broken by the winds, the bamboo that fell, trying to fix the fences that were blown down and collecting all the broken branches that have landed in the garden. She has temporarily fixed the awning that had its metal fastening broken with the force of the winds. I suspect our stainless steel fastenings had rusted, as is the way with stainless steel here.

The four hours of moping up water has been a synch in comparison to all the things she is doing. Now I am reminded why I have so many buckets and plastic tubs, and why I keep so many old towels. They have all come in very useful once more. I am saturated as if I had been caught out in a tropical storm, but I haven't been outdoors.

The invasion of waters to the house started very rapidly and by the time the two of us covered furniture with the large plastic sheets and moved office papers off the desk it was already too late... many papers were wet and furniture wet. In a few days there will be sunshine to dry things out. Everyone will have mats and furniture outdoors in the sun drying it all out. I will hang papers up to dry.

There is so much water inside and I am saturated and have been for hours. When the winds twirl around at various stages they blow from every direction and as they are mainly horizontal and have great force of many km per hour, the winds blow the rain in through the two layers of each house orifice; through the double layer of windows and shutters and through the doors and door shutters. The tiling roof is perfectly fine most of the time, but in a storm the tiles have the potential to let the winds blow the rain through any crevices between them.

Enough of my personal typhoon story and back to moping up the water before it spreads too far or seeps through the floor board joints down into the CEF office.

So after more moping up just to say the storm has been raging for some hours. I am lucky as I live in a solid home, but many of the families we help have structures of bamboo, matting, wooden panels, dirt floors, tin roofs and some have unfinished cement and brick rooms that they could not afford to complete.

I know for sure some of their homes won’t be standing right now as two of my neighbors have outdoor kitchens made of bamboo and matting and they have been blown down. One also is a carpenter and has a bamboo and wood work shed that has blown down.

I have to admit I feel tired from the physical work of dealing with this for some hours and Lien looks exhausted, but we are still in a house with walls and a roof, many of the families will not be.

When the typhoon stops and we have electricity and a phone service we will be able to contact them all and find out how they are and dearly hope they have all survived at least although many homes won't have for sure.

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