The road from Cagayan de Oro to Iligan City winds gently along the northern coast of Mindanao. At times it climbs into the hills that follow the shore here; here it is easy to forget that just six days ago Typhoon Washi killed more than 1,000 people and devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
The tranquility of the drive is violently broken however, when the road reaches Iligan City. The bridge across the river is normally about 30 feet above the water. On the night of Saturday 17 December, however, that water climbed and roared and washed across the bridge after entirely destroying another bridge only a few hundred metres up stream.
Cars and trucks remain submerged in mud, and the shells of houses are all that remain of once thriving neighbourhoods. Like Cagayan de Oro, the physical damage here will take months or even years to repair.
Henry C. Dy is the Vice Major of Iligan City and the Chairman of the local Philippine Red Cross branch. “We have never experienced a typhoon here," he says. "The people here are devastated. Every person tells you they have lost someone.”
He talks of the despair etched on the faces of people. “Two days after the storm, we met one man who had lost his entire family: his wife and all of his children. We gave him some food and some other things and he looked at us blankly as if to say: 'What do I need this for? What do I have to live for?'”
The trauma of the weekend’s storm is something that the Red Cross is trying to directly address. Michael L. Belaro is a welfare officer who is based in Manila, but was deployed in the days after the disaster. Today he is working at an evacuation site at a primary school in the barangay (neighbourhood) of Luinab.
“We’ve been doing psychological first aid here,” he says. “Normally we try to do group work, but it’s not possible here; people are suffering too much.
“So we try to identify the people who urgently need support; those that have isolated themselves and those displaying negative coping behaviours. But it takes time.”
Some of the scars from Washi are more obvious. On the other side of the evacuation centre, teams of Red Cross volunteers are supporting a group of doctors to treat injuries incurred almost one week ago. This team of doctors flew to Iligan from Manila soon after Washi to do what they could to help. Dr Michael Muñoz is an orthopaedic surgeon. Within hours of arriving, he says, he was treating a woman who had been struck by a piece of iron sheeting during the storm.
“After five days, her bones were still visible. But we were able to provide initial treatment and get her to a hospital and now we think she will keep her leg.”
He says that the complaints that he and his colleagues are seeing are to do with illnesses that come when people live in such close quarters in evacuation centres. More children, he says, are being treated for diarrhoea and skin infections.