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Inez woman hears family's account of Typhoon Haiyan's wrath

By JR Ortega
Nov. 12, 2013 at 5:12 a.m.
Updated Nov. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.

A resident looks at houses damaged by typhoon Haiyan, in Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines. Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, slammed into the central Philippine provinces Friday, leaving a wide swath of destruction and thousands of people dead. Read story, A4

The waters rose with ferocity.

Modesto Holasca, clutching his wife, niece and two grandchildren, could not hold on any longer. The current yanked his family from his arms and into the murky, debris-filled water.

It's an image Rachel Talua Smith struggles to imagine, but it's the image her family in the Philippines is giving her in their daily phone calls in the wake of one of the strongest-recorded typhoons - Typhoon Haiyan.

Holasca, Smith's mother's first cousin, lost everything - family and home.

Smith is doing anything she can to help not only her family but also others who live in the country she still calls home.

"We are a very tight family," Smith, crying, said Tuesday. The 40-year-old Inez resident has lived in the United States for 15 years, and in Inez for about seven.

Prior to arriving, she lived in Tacloban, the capital of the Leyte province, which was the area hit hardest by the typhoon.

While Smith seeks help from family and friends to send cash back home, she wants others to also open their hearts and help.

"A dollar will make a huge difference," she said. "I know it's so far away, but anything can help."

Smith's uncle, who lived farther away from the devastation, walked 25 miles to check on his family in Tacloban.

Smith also has her mom's brother, his wife and their daughter in the Philippines, as well as her mother's sister, her four children and two grandchildren.

Smith has been mostly in contact with her uncle, who walked to Tacloban, because he has cellphone service, she said.

The description he has given of what he sees is too much for Smith to handle.

She mentally sketches his description of the magnitude of the devastation - the stench of human waste and sewer is strong, but not strong enough to overpower the scent of rotting flesh.

Bodies, he said to her, lie everywhere - under, on and even in between debris.

Small footpaths are carved by walkers who scoot debris away with their feet.

"No one has ever seen anything like this," Smith said, still choking up. "This is my home."

Typhoons are common for that area, Smith said.

She's been through several, including one in the 1980s that tore apart her childhood home.

Still, nothing compares to the destruction Typhoon Haiyan left behind, she said.

Smith has received cash donations to send to her family, but even if the money is not for her family, there are plenty of organizations - such as the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army - that can help Haiyan survivors, she said.

While the generosity of people has helped Smith smile some, she still remains at a loss for words when watching the destruction in the media.

Her uncle, she said, has just the right words.

"'I hope to never see it ever again,'" she said he told her. "'I hope my children and my children's children will never see it again.'"



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