LDS Church continues to aid in recovery efforts following Typhoon Haiyan

Published: Monday, March 3 2014 12:26 p.m. MST

Gemmer Esperas and his wife, Analyn Esperas, sit in a new, sturdy house Gemmer constructed with help from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The couple lost their only child, 6-year-old Annammer, during Typhoon Haiyan. Now, as part of local recovery efforts, Gemmer is receiving training in carpentry and tools from the LDS Church.

Sarah Jane Weaver, Deseret News

TOCLOBAN, Philippines — On the day Typhoon Haiyan caused the water to rise in Tocloban, Analyn Esperas held her only child close.

Annammer, 6, was scared; she wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck and held tight.

The pair stayed inside until the wind took their roof. Then the water came.

“We didn’t expect that the water would get so high,” recalled Esperas. “We didn’t have a chance to get to a higher place.”

As they tried to escape, the wind and water carried them into a rice field. Esperas clung to a piece of Styrofoam; Annammer clung to her. “It was terrible,” said the mother.

When a huge wave hit the pair, the Styrofoam that held them afloat broke in half; Esperas lost both pieces.

As they began to swim, a second wave pushed the mother and daughter underwater.

They came up for air as a third wave — the biggest wave — struck. A large piece of wood carried by the current dug into Esperas’ chest.

Recovering from the force of the impact, Esperas spoke to her daughter. She wondered out loud if they could survive the storm. She was still talking when she realized Annammer was gone — carried away by the third wave.

Moving forward

It has been more than three months since Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, yet the storm’s signature remains.

Trees and power lines lay broken and mangled. Rubble is piled along the streets. And foundations or empty shells of homes stand as a reminder of the storm’s strength.

Locals — wanting visitors to understand what they went through — continually point to the places they laid their dead.

It could be weeks, or months, before electricity returns to Tacloban. The cost of fruits and vegetables, sent here from Manila, is high. And gasoline, which is now needed to power generators as well as automobiles, is still an expensive necessity.

But recovery is underway.

Roads are clear. Vendors walk the street selling their wares. New homes dot the landscape. And the mountain, brown only weeks ago, is filled with lush, green growth.

Analyn Esperas and her husband, Gemmer Esperas, are also recovering.

Sitting on the floor of a new, sturdy home — built by Gemmer through a housing construction program provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — they talk of Annammer, Typhoon Haiyan and of moving forward.

Storm surge

Analyn Esperas said the moments after losing her daughter were like a horrible dream. She had expected high winds and rain. What she didn’t expect — or understand — was a storm surge.

Three times she dove under the black water. “I didn’t find her.”

Another survivor spoke to the mother. “Don’t look for her anymore,” the woman said.

Out of strength and freezing, Esperas could not move. But when a large snake slithered along her back, she found herself climbing onto a roof. “I moved because of the snake. That is why I survived.”

Once on the roof, Esperas began to vomit black water. The water also poured from the mother’s nose and ears.

She waited on the roof for the wind to stop. Then she resumed her search for Annammer.

Recovery efforts

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