Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Super Storm Usagi Experience, Basco 2013

It started on Friday, we knew there was a storm that was expected to land sometime in the afternoon. We were told it was Category 3-4. Little did we know it would later escalate to a Category 5 superstorm, on par with Katrina.

The skies began to darken in the early morning and there was an eerie feeling - I think the atmospheric pressure (?) was also low so it felt kinda strange, seriously. At some point it felt like ... we were in some kind of vacuum.

Friday lunch time. I still went out for lunch at the college canteen. Because I was hungry.
Schools were already ordered to close on the day. View across a little park in front of the Municipal Building.

It was windy too. Selfie pre-storm on the National Road.

I walked towards the sea near Shanedel. Big white waves already started crashing on the cliffs and seaside.

View from the rooftop of my hostel, after my lunch.

Then the rain came a little later. Heavy. Non stop.

Night fall. No change in stormy weather. No, actually, it got serious.
Really scary, howling wind. HOWLING AND WAILING. ALL NIGHT.

My bed got soaked. Water was puddling as the windows couldn't bear the brunt of the rain.
I could not sleep. I think no one did. It wasn't possible. Room got flooded by midnight and water seeped steadily into the corridors. 

Day break. Still at it.

The storm. Like a wrecking ball x 100.
View from my room window. That palm tree suffered severe whiplash.

Things and stuff were flying around. The wind was howling like nothing I've ever heard.
That roof just got blown off from somewhere.

When the rain got really heavy, all we could see outside was white.
By the second day, my room became the lepak place cos it had an extra bed and this big window looking out. We had snacks and coffee and tea, and our landlady was so kind in preparing delicious meals for us. Very simple, yet so flavourful. Later we taked about this and I realised that the meat, vegetables (pricier here) and fish are all organic! Never have I eaten such flavourful beef. No pictures though, it would be rude.

Sunday morning, after close to 40 hours, the storm finally moved on and left Batanes. We decided to venture outside to see how the town held up. First, to the pier. 

A ship wreck still being thrown about by strong waves.

Crashing waves - still scary post-storm.

This was an unexpectedly strong wave which sent us scrambling to safer levels. Gila.

At the same time, there was something fascinating about such fury which had us transfixed in silence watching the rough sea unleash the remnants of Usagi.

View from the pintu gerbang. Angry angry waves.

Back on the National Road, they've started to clear the debris and trees and branches. Water was still flowing like a river.

Electricity poles snapped in two - just like that. And these things were like 12-15 inches in diameter.
We had no power at all from Friday 7 pm till the day we flew out, which was .... Tuesday?

Mitch, my hostel-mate had local friends so they brought us around on the bike to survey the damage.

I wonder how it sounded like when this treetrunk snapped.

Poor bananas :( we were very sad when we realised this would mean months of no fruits from these trees.

More trees like this everywhere along the roads.

Someone's house :( Many smaller ones just ..crashed.

Like this one, a traditional-style house.

Some streets were not passable yet.

After a while, I had no words to say. While the devastation was  thankfully not on a scale of 10, it still was very painful to see. 

I bought something from this souvenir handicraft shop the day before. Told the lady I'll be back, but this happened :(

Road towards the hills. We wanted to go up to the Fundacion but the road was not passable.

Looking out from my window on Sunday mid-morning. Locals start clearing and cleaning. They don't wait for any assistance or cry for sympathy with the predicaments. 

No livestock was harmed during the storm. Amazingly, no human fatalities too.

Coconut trees, badly damaged.

Airport Control Tower. The glass panels were all shattered.

Arrival Hall.

Departure area :(

The rectory of the cathedral - the roof was badly damaged. They lost vestments and documents, books etc.

I can't think of a caption for this right now.

Documents drying out in the sun, outside the council building.

BASCO on the go trucks were working non-stop to clear fallen trees and debris as soon as it was safe to do so. Much respect for their work ethics and professionalism.

The National Road was cleared of fallen branches and trees by Sunday noon.

Er. This is the inside of the belly of a Hercules C130. 
Hopefully I will write about this dramatic exit from Basco soon.

I whole-heartedly respect and admire the resilience and faith of the Ivatans in such a catastrophe. Not one person had a sad, pitiful face. They immediately went to work cleaning up the mess and fixing things up. I went to look for my guide's house as I wanted to make sure he and his family were okay. His front porch caved in, but by the time I visited it was cleared up already, just needed a bit of rebuilding.

We outsiders had to accept the fact that there is no power supply. No charging, no lights, no TV, no wi-fi, nothing. Most of our phones were dead by the Sunday. We had to use candles and torchlights at night. There was one local telco that was working, you had to buy a local SIM and reload which was also fast running out (already limited in the first place).

All travellers got busy trying to get on to the next flight out. Flights were cancelled again and again. Thank God I had room to wiggle, unlucky for some they had to re-book outgoing international flights with hefty price tags.

I'm thankful everyone was safe after the storm. An experience I will never forget.
Nature won (it will always win).

1 comment:

  1. wow. this is certainly an experience not to be easily forgotten. Glad that you were safe. The Philippines is one of the most 'stormed' countries in the world so I guess they have grown resilient to occurrences of storm.