Philippine typhoon mother rises from ruins

Philippine typhoon mother rises from ruins
In this photo taken on February 15, 2014, Typhoon Haiyan survivor Emily Sagalis stands next to her baby inside their tent

TACLOBAN, Philippines - In the savage aftermath of the Philippines' deadliest storm, an exhausted young woman gave birth to a girl on a filthy floor with little more than determination to sustain them.

Emily Sagalis survived the tsunami-like ocean surges of Super Typhoon Haiyan by gripping a fence with one hand, while using the other to protect her swollen belly from chunks of metal and other fast-floating debris.

Three days later the 21-year-old was lying on a concrete floor in labour amid broken glass, splintered wood and other wreckage of a destroyed airport building that had been turned into a makeshift medical centre.

A military doctor told an AFP journalist who witnessed the birth - the first at the centre since the typhoon - that Emily's life was in danger as there were no antibiotics to treat seemingly inevitable infections.

But with the medics overwhelmed by a torrent of critically injured survivors, Emily was forced to leave with Bea Joy just seven hours after giving birth.

Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, claimed about 8,000 lives in November last year, with many people dying in the terrifying days that followed when medicines, food and water were scarce.

Emily and Bea Joy, however, defeated death, and today the first-time mother is striving with powerful maternal instincts to create lives of security and happiness on top of the weakest foundations.

"I am happy that Bea Joy is happy and healthy. That's the most important thing," Emily told AFP on a recent visit to their shanty rebuilt alongside hundreds of tents provided by international relief agencies.

Few mercies in typhoon-ruined town

The home Emily shares with Bea Joy and her unemployed husband, Jobert, is so close to the Pacific Ocean that the grey sand beach forms the floor of their tiny kitchen and sleeping area.

It is built on the same site as their previous home in San Jose, a fishing community in Tacloban city where all the buildings were wiped out as higher-than-coconut-tree waves generated by Haiyan powered inland.

Thousands of people have returned to San Jose and neighbouring towns to live in crudely built homes, or in white tents from the United Nations' Refugee Agency (UNHCR) that has helped lead relief efforts.

Emily, Jobert and Bea Joy have so far had a steady supply of food and water, thanks almost entirely to donations from foreign and local charities.

They have also remained relatively healthy, avoiding debilitating mosquito-borne viruses and other illnesses that are a relentless threat in the typhoon zones.

Emily never did suffer from infections from the cuts suffered during the storm and giving birth in unsterile conditions.

That is about where the mercies end.

The fresh salt-filled breeze from the Pacific Ocean haunts Emily.

"We are afraid because we are near the sea. When there is a strong wind... I start thinking about how to flee," she said as she washed clothes by hand in a plastic bucket outside her house.

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