Typhoon orphans find stop-gap home in Philippine city

Typhoon orphans find stop-gap home in Philippine city

TACLOBAN, Philippines - Since her mother, father and three siblings were swept away by a tsunami-like wave that engulfed Tacloban, Nica Cabutin has been learning to live as an orphan, one of many created by the Philippines typhoon.

She was found clutching wreckage after one of the most powerful storms ever recorded whipped up a huge surge that brought the ocean ashore, leaving the city in ruins and thousands of people dead.

Nica's house and entire family were, in her own words, "brought away by the sea", said Carmela Bastes, director of the Shelter for Abused Women and Children, a refuge for rape victims and those afflicted by violence, where the orphan now lives.

The young girl is shy about her lopsided hair, which was cut short so the two large gashes on the side of her head could be treated.

"She tells us she's in first grade and we also estimate she's eight," said Bastes, whose staff tracked the girl's family to what had been the Alimasag neighbourhood of the devastated city.

Survivors there told officials that nothing has been seen of her parents or siblings since Super Typhoon Haiyan struck on November 8.

They are presumed to be five of the more than 4,400 people the United Nations says have died, while Philippine authorities put the toll at just under 4,000.

Nica was one of the first children from Tacloban to be placed in government care after losing parents to the typhoon, said Liliosa Baltazar, director of the city's social welfare department. But, she adds, she is not expected to be the last.

"We can't say at this point how many there will be. We expect the local officials of the (Tacloban) districts will turn over orphaned children to us. Right now they are attending to the needs of their own families."

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