WORTHING’S Filipino community was devastated last week when news reached the UK that a super typhoon had destroyed large parts of the country.
All of the 500 or so Filipinos who live and work in Worthing have been affected in some way by the catastrophic storm.
For Andre Venezuela, a 45-year-old staff nurse at Worthing Hospital, the pain of being so far from his family in such desperate times has been almost unbearable.
Andre’s sister and elderly mother are stuck in the city of Tacloban, one of the hardest-hit areas of the country.
“The house has been torn to pieces,” said Andre. “The latest news is that they have no water supply and their food is dwindling.”
So far, Andre, who has lived in Worthing for 12 years, has only been able to speak to his sister-in-law, who told him his family’s home had been destroyed, the roof torn off by the wind.
He said: “I still haven’t managed to speak to my family because they have no access to a mobile phone.”
Andre fears for his family’s lives in the aftermath of the typhoon.
“I’m worried about anarchy. It’s very much in existence in Tacloban. There are no police or military as they themselves have been affected by the typhoon. There has been looting and stealing and people breaking into other people’s homes looking for food. People are fighting for their survival.
“My greatest fear is the outbreak of diseases because of the bodies still under the rubble that haven’t been buried yet. From what I have heard the whole city is filled with the stench of rot and decay and that will lead to deadly diseases.”
Jojo Tan, 41, is a healthcare assistant at Worthing Hospital.
He only heard news of his aunt and her three children, at 3am on Tuesday.
“At the beginning I didn’t worry because I didn’t know how big it was,” he said.
“When I saw the news the next day and the airport had been washed away and the water was 15 to 20ft high, that’s when I started to really worry. I saw the place were my aunt and nephews live and all the houses had been washed away. My aunt’s house was destroyed and is no longer there.”
Jojo went three nights without sleep as he tried to find out whatever information he could about his family through Facebook.
He said he had been trying to phone every person whose number he had, in the hope of hearing some news of his loved ones.
Finally on Tuesday one of Jojo’s friends found his aunt, who had refused to leave the area where her house once stood.
Her children were alive and had been taken somewhere safe.
“I am so relieved and really pleased that someone has managed to find my aunt,” he said.
“My mum is here and she was really worried and crying but now she is really relieved and really, really happy.”
Majal Gamboa, 37, is a sister in Worthing Hospital’s A&E department.
She said: “We knew the storm was coming but we never thought it would wipe out the whole place. Every person I know, I didn’t know if they were alive or dead. For days we were searching online, looking on lists of survivors.”
Majal said she got a text, days after the storm, saying her sister-in-law’s family had survived.
“I don’t want to think about it but my greatest fear is that if we can’t get them the help they need they will be trapped in this place and we won’t ever see them again.”
Majal said she did not know whether it was better to have died in the storm, or to face a slow death with no food, water or medicine.