Volunteers with local relief agency return from Philippines

Volunteers are telling Eyewitness News about the devastation they saw there after one of the worst national disasters in history
December 13, 2013 4:19:54 PM PST
Volunteers from a Houston-based disaster relief agency are back from the Philippines and telling Eyewitness News about the devastation they saw there after one of the worst national disasters in history.

The volunteers were there for two weeks and helped locals find food and locals. They say they've been on other relief missions before but this is the worst natural disaster they've seen.

"It's indescribable in the sense that it was so huge," volunteer Michael Kahlenberg said.

Watching this cell phone video, you can almost smell the death, destruction and despair....

"There were bodies that were on the side of the road in body bags, waiting to get picked up," Kahlenberg said.

Tacloban, one of the largest and most populated cities in the Philippines, is now flattened. Six-thousand people are reported dead and nearly 1,800 are still missing from when Typhoon Haiyan hit in early November.

These volunteers were there two weeks later.

"There are so many things we take for granted in this country, and I think this is a great opportunity for us as Houstonians but also as Americans," said Phil Maanulwa, president and CEO of IEDA.

This is the office for the Houston-based non-profit International Emergency aAnd Development Aid. Volunteers here just opened another office in the Philippines, training locals there to run relief operations.

"This is the future of the people of the Philippines," Kahlenberg said.

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes, factories and shops have been flattened, farmers have lost their crops. The impact will be felt for years.

"Coconuts, for example, takes somewhere between five to ten years to actually grow a coconut," Maanulwa said.

"I think we planted that seed and hopefully, those coconut trees will grow. It's just going to take time," Kahlenberg said.

"It comes down to humanity, and we can all come together on that platform and work together despite our differences," volunteer Azmine Nimji said.

You can learn more about the organization at www.iedarelief.org.

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