Impacts of Philippine disasters felt in Marion County

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Local educator grew up in island nation

For one Marion County woman, the recent natural disasters that have ravaged the Philippines have been more than a tragic story on the news. It has affected members of her family and her native country.
Elma Simpson moved to Lebanon 18 years ago after she married her husband, Timothy. She grew up in the Philippines, and many of her relatives still live in the island nation in southeast Asia.
Her parents, Lorenzo and Esmeralda Rendon, still live on the island of Bohol, which was one of the areas hit the hardest by an Oct. 15 earthquake. This earthquake registered as a magnitude 7.2, which means it classified as a major earthquake.
According to the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, 222 people died as a result of the earthquake, including 208 on Bohol. Another 797 people were injured, and more than 75,000 families were displaced.
“It took me a day before I got a hold of my dad,” Simpson said.
Her mother, however, was on another part of the island when the earthquake hit.
“Thank God, the next day my mom came home safe,” she said.
The earthquake destroyed homes, hospitals and schools. It even knocked down churches that had been built as long ago as the 1600s, Simpson said.
Simpson’s father, who is 78, said he’d never experienced anything like that.
After the earthquake, many people were living in tents. Likewise, makeshift schools and hospitals were set up under tents as well, according to Simpson.
As people were preparing to start the rebuilding process, another natural disaster struck the island nation. On Nov. 8, Typhoon Haiyan (referred to as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines) reached land.
By that time, Haiyan had been declared a Category 5 storm, with sustained winds of 270 kilometers per hours with gusts up to 312 kilometers per hour, according to the Philippine government.
To date, 3,681 deaths and 12,544 injuries have been attributed to the typhoon. Another 1,186 people remain missing, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
When Simpson was in the third grade, a typhoon struck her area and destroyed some houses, but that was nothing compared to the damage done by Haiyan, she said.
Tacloban, a city of more than 220,000 people, was hit the hardest by Typhoon Haiyan. Tacloban is north of Bohol, but Simpson said she understands people were evacuated from Bohol following the typhoon.
She added that her parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles are safe.
“I am so thankful to the United States and the other countries that helped the Philippines,” she said.
Her friends and family in Kentucky gave her money to send to her father, who is a government official in Bohol. He used the money to buy food and distribute it to people in his area, according to Simpson.
During the week, she continues her work as a migrant advocate and teacher for Marion County Public Schools, but she has remained in regular contact with her family. She said she plans to visit the Philippines again next summer.
“I just ask for everybody to keep praying for all the survivors and all the families who lost loved ones,” Simpson said.


Want to help?
Several international relief agencies have responded to the Philippines in the aftermath of last month’s earthquake and this month’s typhoon.
One way to help is by donating to the Red Cross’s Typhoon Appeal. Donations can be made online here http://goo.gl/HX97hy.
Donations can also be made by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or by texting REDCROSS to 90999. For each text $10 will be added to the person’s monthly bill or deducted from his or her prepaid account.