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Catastrophic Devastation


By Jimmy Sarmiento


In the early morning hours of Friday, November 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda (International code name Haiyan) slammed into Guiuan, a municipality of 47,000 inhabitants in the southern tip of Samar Island, in Central Philippines. Yolanda had the equivalent strength of a Category 5 hurricane, slamming into land with sustained winds of 195 mph, and gusting up to 235 mph, as announced by the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center. If confirmed, this typhoon is believed to be the strongest ever to make landfall in recorded history. In comparison, when Hurricane Katrina made its US landfall, its wind speed has weakened to about 130 mph. Super Storm Sandy hit New Jersey with winds of around 95 mph.



Photo Credit: Philippine Star

What is the difference between a cyclone, typhoon, and hurricane? Just the name, as they all describe the same tropical weather phenomenon. In the South Pacific and Indian Ocean these storms are called cyclones, in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific they are hurricanes, and in Asia, they are called typhoons.


Why the dual names, Yolanda and Haiyan? In the Western Pacific Region, the Japan Meteorological Agency is charged with naming all tropical storms. However, when a storm enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), it is given another designation by the Philippine authorities from a pre-determined annual list of 25 names, in alphabetical order. The letter X is skipped. If a typhoon causes more than 1 Billion pesos worth of damage and 300 deaths, its name is retired and scrapped from future lists. So, for 2013, Yolanda was the 24th storm to enter the PAR. The 25th storm of the year, a tropical depression named Zoraida, hit the island of Mindanao a few days after Yolanda, causing minimal damage but lots of rain. But wait, there’s more! If more than 25 storms enter the Philippines in one calendar year, there is an auxiliary list of 10 names. For the rest of 2013, the next ones, fate forbid, will be named Alamid, Bruno, Conching, and so on. The Philippines averages about 20 typhoons a year.

Photo Credit: Philippine Star


It is hard to find words to describe the devastation brought on by Super Typhoon Yolanda. Perhaps one resident’s assessment, “as if an atomic bomb was dropped”, accurately describes the scenario. The Mayor of Guiuan said that 100% of the town’s structures were either destroyed or damaged. The City of Tacloban, the once bustling capital of the Province of Leyte with a population of over 200,000, was also severely damaged. The eye of the storm passed within 6 miles of this city. Five days after the storm, dead bodies still littered the streets. Official death count is currently around 2,300, but will definitely rise as soon as other communities are completely canvassed.

Yolanda island hopped and made 5 landings in the Philippines: Guiuan, Eastern Samar province, Tolosa, Leyte province, Daanbantayan, Cebu, Bantayan Island and the town of Concepcion, Iloilo province in Panay Island. Majority of media attention is focused on Leyte, which has the worst damage. However, the damage, destruction and human suffering in other provinces should not be underestimated.

Photo credit: David Yu Santos, Facebook. Guiuan, Eastern Samar, Philippines.


Aid to the typhoon victims was severely delayed because the first responders, the local government units, were also literally washed out. This resulted in hunger, and in a few instances, looting and lawlessness. The storm surge, a foreign concept to the locals, did most of the killing. Many, around 750,000 heeded the government’s call to evacuate prior to the storm, but others had the “been there done that” attitude. In hindsight, locals said that if they were told that the typhoon would bring a “tsunami” (a technically inaccurate term) they would have sought higher ground.



Yolanda was categorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a Category 3 disaster, the highest level. Recent Category 3 disasters include the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. The U.N. estimates that 11.3 million Filipinos were affected, with 673,000 made homeless.

Filipinos will forever be grateful to the generosity of the American people and its military. Two days after the typhoon, a relative texted me, “I wonder how the US cargo planes arrived here so quickly?” It was great to watch on CNN US Aid pallets being unloaded at the Tacloban airport tarmac. Early this morning, November 14th, I was greeted with the news that the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and its support vessels have anchored off the coast of Leyte. The “cavalry has arrived”, so to speak, with hundreds of US Marines with helicopters and other aircraft. Also very critical, the carrier has the ability to convert salt water to thousands of liters of drinking water every day.

The international community has responded with a massive aid effort. However, individual donations are badly needed. Please, please give generously, but first a few words of advice:

  • Donate cash, not food or clothing.

  • Donate to established charities. Sadly, scammers and schemers will undoubtedly crawl out of the woodworks in the next days/weeks. Be wary of email and phone solicitations, and even fake websites.

  • When you donate, tell the organization that you are designating it to the Philippine typhoon relief. Most websites have the ability to let you do this.

  • If you are employed, find out if your employer matches donations. A lot of Bay Area employers do.

  • Year end is coming, ask your tax person if these donations qualify as a tax deduction.

Visit the website and click on “Super Typhoon Haiyan Disaster Relief” for a list of reputable charities.

One organization that I “saw” on the ground (thanks to CNN) is the World Food Programme: I also don’t think you can go wrong by donating to the American Red Cross.


It is impossible to attribute a single event like Super Typhoon Yolanda to global warming, but it is an undeniable fact that the ocean has risen at an alarming level in the Philippines in the last 30 years, contributing to the storm surge. Dr. Jeff Masters blog said,

A remarkable warming of the sub-surface Pacific waters east of the Philippines in recent decades, due to a shift in atmospheric circulation patterns and ocean currents that began in the early 1990s, could be responsible for the rapid intensification of Super TyphoonHaiyan.


To the global warming deniers who often post and gloat here on VIB, all I can say is,

“Hope you and your immediate family members were there.”







Editor's note: Those of you new to VIB may not be familiar with the H. Martin Foundation. The H. Martin Foundation (HMF) is a fraudulent charitable organization originating in the Philippines, which attempted to set up an operation in Vallejo. Their activities include outright fraud as well as counterfeiting (badly) US treasury notes and other currency. They are no longer attempting to operate in Vallejo, but are still active in Southern California and elsewhere.


HMF fraud activities were exposed in great detail on VIB in collaboration with Mr. Sarmiento.


The various articles  published on VIB regarding HMF can be found HERE



Just this last summer, the Humanitarian Martin Foundation made presentations at approximately a dozen Southern California city councils offering free money. Following is a quote from the Glendale News Press:

"I'm here to reach out to you, the leadership of Glendale, in an effort to bring a solution to the economic problems of your city; and that solution would come by and through the H. Martin Foundation," volunteer Curtis Holland said during the council meeting.

He added that his organization wanted "to provide 100% funding for all the city's various programs and projects that would provide services and create jobs."

Holland also proposed building the H. Martin Global Community Center of Glendale, which would provide a variety of humanitarian services.”



Similar offers were made to the cities of Aliso Viejo, Claremont, Lancaster, Upland, Hesperia, Chino, Glendale, Azusa, Brea, South Pasadena, City of Walnut and Buena Park. HMF is also on record to have offered to pay off the US national debt. Apparently the HMF has money to give away.

Here’s a simple question to the H. Martin Foundation leadership and loyal followers. How much money did you contribute to the recent Philippine disasters? Last month an intensity 7.2 earthquake devastated the Island of Bohol. Yes, Bohol, where your founder, Martin Eddy Hordino Tirwatadinata lives. How much did you contribute? How much are you giving for Yolanda Relief?