THE BLOG

Conversation in a Hospital After Typhoon Haiyan

20/12/2013 16:19 GMT | Updated 19/02/2014 10:59 GMT

"Our house in Tacloban was completely flooded," says Gilda.

"From the first-floor window I saw a big wave coming," says Emma, Gilda's aunt. "Then everything was floating around."

"The wave was 10 metres high."

"A total of three waves hit the house. I can't remember anything else because then I lost consciousness."

It's 10am, and 52-year-old Gilda Calvara and her 73-year-old aunt, Emma Calvara, are recovering from their wounds in hospital in the inland city of Burauen, on Leyte island. When the typhoon struck, both were living in a two-storey house in the coastal city of Tacloban. The house was sturdy enough to stand up to the strong winds, but not to the tsunami-like waves that hit the area.

"When the water came, I thought we were going to die," says Gilda. "We started to pray. We received cuts from broken glass and splintered wood."

"At the beginning I didn't even realise that I was injured," says Emma. "I thought it was the end of the world."

Gilda and Emma's green house is one of the few still standing on Tacloban's seafront, although some of the walls collapsed and it suffered severe structural damage. Photo albums, books and Christmas decorations are strewn over the floor. For the first few chaotic days after the disaster, Gilda and Emma took refuge in the local church. The building sheltered dozens of families who had lost their houses.

The church stands unscathed, but just a few hundred metres away, the houses on the seafront - especially the flimsiest ones - were reduced to rubble.

"We didn't change our clothes for three days," says Gilda. "There was no food, no water. We got a tetanus shot and the wounds in our legs were dressed."

"I don't even want to remember it," says Emma.

A cousin of Emma's collected them from the church and took them to Burauen, where their wounds were treated in the main regional hospital, which is being supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Sitting on beds in the inpatient ward, they talk over what they've been through and look forward to being discharged and moving to Manila, where they have relatives. For now, going back to Tacloban is not on the cards.

"The house? It's a skeleton," says Emma.

"The house is ruined," says Gilda. "Everything is ruined."