'All we want for Xmas is tarpaulin for a roof'

'All we want for Xmas is tarpaulin for a roof'
Mr Rafael with his family posing in what was once their home. (From left, Arthur, Arianne, Marissa, Arwen and Erwin Rafael)

TACLOBAN- When Arianne Joy Rafael landed at Tacloban airport on a flight from Manila last week, the six-month-old started babbling.

Maybe she was glad to be home. Or maybe she just wanted to talk about the drama she had experienced of late.

Indeed, hers has been an exciting life. Impatient to see the world, she was taken from her mother's womb two months early by a caesarean section.

Last month, she had quite a tangle with Typhoon Haiyan, which lashed the central Philippine province of Leyte, killed 6,000 people and left another 1,800 missing.

The super storm charged into the school where she was taking refuge with her parents, two elder brothers and other villagers from Timex, a slum near the airport in Tacloban.

In minutes, raging torrents of sea water submerged the classroom they were in. Her father, Mr Erwin Rafael, 31, held little Arianne tight to him and dived into the whirlpool.

They surfaced near the ceiling rafters, where the radiator repairman passed his baby - who did not cry throughout the ordeal - to a fellow villager who took her to safety by clambering onto the roof. With only the damp clothes on their backs, the family then camped out at Tacloban airport and were later taken to Manila, where Mr Rafael's sister lives.

Her brush with Haiyan took its toll on little Arianne in Manila. She started coughing and sniffling and suffered very bad diarrhoea. Fortunately, the family met some good Samaritans who got her admitted into a hospital and also paid for her three-day stay there.

Together with their parents, Arianne and her brothers Arthur, 13, and Arwen, 10, are now back in Timex, which lost 12 of its 400 residents to Haiyan, known to the locals as Yolanda. Another 13 are still missing.

All that remains of the Rafaels' home, which like all the houses in the area was made of planks and sheets of corrugated iron, is the concrete floor, roughly 3m by 4m.

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