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Typhoon survivors turn cave-dwellers

A member of the Belgian state rapid reaction unit, the Belgian First Aid and Support Team (B-FAST), carries tent poles at a makeshift hospital, jointly set up with German NGO International Search and Rescue (ISAR-Germany), for Typhoon Haiyan victims in the yard of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Palo, near Tacloban in central Philippines November 16, 2013. (MNS photo)

A member of the Belgian state rapid reaction unit, the Belgian First Aid and Support Team (B-FAST), carries tent poles at a makeshift hospital, jointly set up with German NGO International Search and Rescue (ISAR-Germany), for Typhoon Haiyan victims in the yard of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Palo, near Tacloban in central Philippines November 16, 2013. (MNS photo)

MERCEDES, November 18, 2013 (AFP) – Victims who survived the Philippines’ super typhoon by huddling in a cave as a tsunami-like wave obliterated their community have now made it their home – reduced to Stone Age conditions with nowhere else to go.

Manuel Isquierdo and his wife sought refuge in the limestone den as Haiyan – one of the strongest storms ever recorded – flattened the town of Mercedes on Samar island, washing away residents’ livelihoods in the devastating early hours of November 8.

“It was past midnight when my wife and I decided to run up to the cave behind our house,” the fisherman told AFP.

“We were just in time. Our house crumpled to the ground soon after,” the 38-year-old added.

The couple were joined by two other families and spent more than six hours in the dark, damp cavern as rising storm surge waters edged dangerously closer and closer to its entrance, frightened that they would drown or be swept out to sea.

“We could hear the typhoon outside. It sounded like a bulldozer,” Isquierdo said. “We were afraid of the sea, afraid that the storm surge would flood the cave.”

As the winds died down and waters subsided, the families stepped out of the cave to witness unimaginable destruction – their neighborhood had been destroyed and they had been left with virtually nothing.

Since then, the cave has become a temporary home as Isquierdo works on rebuilding his wooden house on stilts near the Buyayawon river on Samar’s Pacific coast.

The cave hosts the little possessions the Isquierdos and others were able to salvage from the wreckage. A clothes line blocks the entrance and remnants of a wood fire lie in the corner.

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