We’re 150 miles away from the eye of the typhoon, so I knew we would have some rain, and some flooding (I posted about flooding before), but I really wasn’t expecting the strong winds, and on a walk around the neighborhood when the rain took a break, there are trees down all around us.
At around 6am I woke up with a loud noise outside – it sounded like a car stuck in the snow, pressing on the gas pedal to get out. I looked out of the window, saw no flood, noticed the power had gone off at some point and the AC was off, turned it back on, and went back to bed. Then I realized it: the noise? That was the wind.
I checked my phone and there was no messages from Karl, who had already left for work, so it couldn’t be that bad right?
Well, it was bad. It was this bad:
(Picture credit totally not mine, these was taken by Keith Brown who was also on his way there, and who I never met – so hopefully he won’t mind me posting!)
For a more shocking account, check out this BBC video. All the stuff they film? In front of the Embassy. Those strong waves? About 50 feet from the Embassy’s door, flooding Roxas Boulevard.
The Embassy opens for business at 7:30am, Karl gets to the office around 6:30am (by choice, but he is not the only one who likes a quiet start, since entry-level consular officers do not get a FOB, and it’s his only chance to catch up with emails).
The Embassy decided to close for business a little after 7:30am, when many people were already in there (the ones that weren’t had either taken liberal leave – authorized the day before, but Karl had no leave to spare – or were stuck in traffic or forced to turn around due to floods).
To make things worse, it was decided that the local staff and officers would stay until the interviews of the visa applicants already inside the building were finished. Talk about putting the lives of your staff, both American and Filipinos, and the lives of your applicants in danger. Really? There’s a typhoon outside, but let’s do visa interviews…
I had already told our driver to come back to Makati and go home, as our little Corolla cannot deal with water that high. He made it home safe. Our helper never made it this morning due to the weather (a good thing, as she might have gotten stuck here).
At around 9am, Karl called me “I don’t think I’m coming home tonight, there’s no way out of the building, the water is too high.” They had finally stopped working – 1.5 hours after the Embassy had officially closed for business, and the officers that had come to work were finally allowed to go home, but there was no way out of the building.
As you can see from the pictures and the BBC video, he wasn’t kidding!
At some point a shuttle parked near the Embassy so that some people could try going home. Karl decided to hop on it, but others made the (probably smart) decision of staying behind (and they will likely stay at the Embassy for the night). Because to get to the shuttle? You had to walk through that water that was almost waist-high.
Let’s keep in mind that the water you see above is a combination of overflowed sewage and Manila Bay water (which is polluted and literally full of garbage). Karl and his coworkers could feel the debris (of who knows what) hitting their legs (you can check out Dustin’s account on his blog here, as he was right next to Karl).
When Karl got home, he removed his shoes, asked for me to put an old towel on the floor, so he could make his way to the bathroom without actually stepping on our floors, while screaming “don’t let Lily close to me, you don’t understand, I’m covered in feces! I’m literally covered in human waste!” He took an hour long shower, and hopefully he didn’t catch any weird bacteria.
Next time I check out a typhoon alert online and go “it’s 150 miles away from us, I think we’ll be ok” please slap me.