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JamesMusslewhite

Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens: Avoid Travel To Leyte and Samar

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JamesMusslewhite

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Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens
U.S. Embassy, Manila, Philippines
November 20, 2013
 
THE EMBASSY OF THE UNITED STATES IS TRANSMITTING THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION AS A PUBLIC SERVICE TO U.S. CITIZENS IN THE PHILIPPINES.  PLEASE DISSEMINATE THIS MESSAGE TO ALL U.S. CITIZENS IN YOUR ORGANIZATION OR NEIGHBORHOOD.  THANK YOU.
 
Defer Travel to Areas Affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

 U.S. Embassy Manila urges all U.S. citizens to defer travel to Leyte, Samar, and other areas devastated by recent typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda.  At this time, travel to these areas is hazardous.  There is no electricity in most of the impacted areas. Telephone communication is intermittent.  Water, food, sanitation services, and fuel are extremely limited.  Ground transportation is difficult due to damaged roads and infrastructure.  Medical care is limited and focused on those injured by the typhoon.  While the security situation continues to improve due to the efforts of Philippine authorities, the overall situation in these areas remains extremely difficult.

The American Citizen Services (ACS) section is actively working to identify, locate, and assist U.S. citizens in the typhoon impact zone.  If you have family or relatives in these areas, please contact ACS at [email protected] to provide us the appropriate information.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Embassy is located at 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines and is open 0730-1600, Monday through Friday.  The Embassy's main telephone number is (632) 301-2000.  U.S. citizens needing to speak to the Embassy can dial this number and ask to be connected to the American Citizen Services (ACS) unit or with the Embassy Duty Officer (for calls outside of normal business hours).  You can also contact the ACS unit through email at [email protected] or through the Embassy Facebook page.  Please visit our website for information on all services offered by the ACS unit.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in the Philippines enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at www.Travel.State.GovSTEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. 

Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, including the Travel Warning for the Philippines, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution.  Read the Country Specific Information for the Philippines.  For additional information, refer to “A Safe Trip Abroad” on the State Department’s website.

Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions.  You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips.

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Paul

And, after we get the government laywers' version, we get the truth posted here:

 


FINALLY back online. Opening this thread it's heart warming to see the concern shown by fellow forum members. We truly are a community. We have a generator but there has been no useable Internet signal until this morning.
 
Typhoon Yolanda passed directly over us and she was a bitch! By some amazing good luck or more likely terrain factors, our house suffered only minor damage while all around us nipa hut s were flattened and concrete houses had their roofs torn off. Roads were completely blocked by trees in our area for two days, but since have been cleared. Since we were the only house with electric and ample water we became the defacto disaster relief center. The first night we had 50 or so people staying in our small home and we were supplying water for our sitio for maybe a week, until the barangay water was fixed.
 
Life is slowly returning to near normal with most people in their hastily repaired homes and a roof over their heads. We live in a rice growing area so most people have enough rice to survive and no one is starving, yet. We usually keep a good supply of perishable items in our freezer and with the generator available are able to live off of them for a couple of weeks. We have our own supply of water from a spring that provides more than enough, so we are in pretty good shape right now. The biggest problem is the cost of running the generator. It burns one liter per hour and with diesel going for 60 pesos per liter, it gets expensive fast. We are limiting use to about 8 hours a day but still a big expense.
 
We have been to Ormoc a few times and it is a mess. Initially there were HUGE lines for gas, ATM and supermarkets. Robinsons is limiting purchases to one hand carried basket and by yesterday their shelves were almost bare. Lines have since shrunk and will return to normal soon as people realize that there is plenty of gas, food etc. in the pipeline so no need to panic.
 
Relief efforts in our area have been minimal. As sky man mentioned the initial offering was buggy cornmeal and one package of instant noodles per family. Pathetic and disgusting. I'm sure the larger cities are getting first attention and food will filter out this way eventually. My gf has been providing some food and nails that were donated by her friends in Cebu, but that isn't nearly enough. She was elected Barangay Kapitan in the last election but doesn't take office until Dec 1, so no govt money yet.
 
Things will work out eventually and we are thankful there were no lives lost or serious injuries in our small part of Leyte.
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JamesMusslewhite

Just bumping this thread so it will be seen by US members...

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Jawny

Thanks James for passing along the cautionary note. I was disappointed in the lateness and bureaucratic info it provided.

 

I haven't seen a lot of postings on the forum about the way members are dealing with the issues they face. I expected more "chatter".

 

However, about two weeks after the storm I went to Cebu from where I live in Leyte for a couple of days. It was stunning how much the storm was "yesterday's news". The only news in the papers was the typical finger pointing and complaints about getting the fair share of relief goods. Little else except general summaries.

 

Of course, there was a lot of publicity with charity concerts being scheduled and donation boxes everywhere. Otherwise, it was business as usual it seemed. Nothing like the scenes I left behind in Ormoc city and nearby.

 

I kept thinking about what it would be like if the conditions we are experiencing now would be in larger metro areas like Cebu. Particularly for expats.

 

In my case, we were able to manage okay, in part because I have lived here a number of years. I knew a little bit of what to expect. However, the extent and duration of the bad conditions has proven to be a challenge. Some members may have greater difficulties because they are transient in nature and haven't been able to establish the connections to help them and their companions though this.

 

Some examples, and how I was able to cope.

 

Money. Because I live here, I am able to have cash on hand. That may not be possible for some as they bring a pocketful and then use ATMs or other electronic means to get cash. Not possible for several days here. It is still a hassle, even as some electricity is beginning to flow into nearby cities like Ormoc or Baybay.

 

Many members complain about the parochial nature of Metrobank. However, that proved to be a benefit for me. The bank I use was only open to very few customers who were let in by security a few days after the storm. I had passbook accounts, but they were not updated. However, because I am a customer of long standing and have regular deposits, they were willing to give me cash. They kept the passbook, but that was so they could take it by ferry to Cebu and update it. So, problem solved, right? Not exactly. I used a foreign currency account and there was no way for them to give me an official exchange rate. So, I had to leave with cash and get it exchanged to pesos another way.

 

This awkwardness extends to many more than expats. My sister in law is a public school teacher and does not expect to be paid until February. This is in large part because they use ATMs for their salary withdrawals along with the DEPED head offices for her district being in Tacloban. Knowing what I do about the culture here, Yolanda will be the excuse du jour for many months. If you don't want to do your job well, just blame it on Yolanda. So, she can't get paid for many weeks because of the problems with the banking system and DEPED.

 

The benefit I had by living here and having cash available was I could help out not just myself. Within a week or two I had made loans to many within the family and even some employees. It was a blessing for them and for me a chance to repay their good work and kindnesses.

 

Electricity was a hassle. Ironically, the generator we had was not running, and just a day before the storm we had a chance to get it tuned up, but forgot the chore. Whoops. We got it repaired, and same day were able to buy a second generator. Problem solved, right? Not so fast. Where will the fuel come from!

 

In the first couple of days after the storm, fuel was not a problem. We topped off our car and got 20 liters or so of extra fuel. If we had been through this before, we would have known that by the third day or so, the lines with buckets and barrels would fill the gas stations. No way to easily get fuel. We sent people to get us fuel and they would wait hours and be turned away. One enterprising fellow was overheard by one of those in front of him in line and within ten minutes he had bought the fuel at nearly double the price. He thought he was doing us a favor, but all he did was help the fellow "flip" his fuel for a profit. Essentially, the lines were of people speculating with fuel as their resource.

 

Within a week of this, the local army units would come by these gasoline sales lining the highway and dump the fuel. I am NOT making this up.

 

What was even stranger was what we saw in Albeura, a small town midway between Ormoc and Baybay. While there were lines and hassles in those cities, in Albuera, on a trip to Ormoc, we drove in to a gas station, no customers, got fuel and filled a container we luckily had with us. No problems for them, though they did limit their hours due to the brown out.

 

Food was not a problem. It seemed at first there would be a problem with many stores damaged and such. However, before a few days passed we were able to get just about anything we usually did.

 

We did find it difficult to get flour for our bakery at first. The supplier we used had lost their entire stock of flour, so we had to scramble to get alternate sources. The advantage we had was we were just one of a few bakeries open. We had a generator at the bakery to use.

 

Hospitals were a stunning example of just how things can surprise you. There are several hospitals in commuting distance from us, but in the first days, they were suffering the same bad fate we all were. Worse for them, of course, as they were the place people would be going to for help.

 

Some people in Ormoc, we were told, had to travel by ferry to Cebu for their scheduled dialysis. I'm pretty sure surgeries and even some laboratory processes may be left undone until power is reliably restored. I am not certain of this, but do have the feeling of uneasiness that serious problems may require a ferry ride to Cebu.

 

Crime was of concern in the early days. We take precautions at our home, but I had visions of groups of "evacuees" from Tacloban searching for targets. As it is, there are many people from there who have relocated here, but no significant crime we have been informed of. We heard of some bus robberies in the Tacloban area.

 

I can assure you, when it is night here, it is NIGHT. We have come to appreciate the light from the moon and stars.

 

I am going on a bit much, I know. But I felt the need to caution members of the forum that shit does indeed happen.

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Kabisay-an gid

The department/grocery store at Prince Mall in Baybay City is open for business, but rationing is in effect. Purchases of food, water and other essentials are limited to 500 PHP per day - to prevent affluent individuals from buying and hoarding everything.

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bahalina buong

MikeeW, nice post.  As for Dep-Ed payrolls, wife teaches in the Ormoc district and she was notified this week by her bosses that she would be paid IN CASH on Monday (when classes resume).  Or maybe they just told her that to get her to show up for work.    :paul:   Half-year bonuses are due soon also.  My guess is that it might be another week before they see some money, but certainly not until February.      

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