Obeying orders saved my life

Mr Likim Wong, extreme left, with the guests and staff at Evolution Resrot of Malapascua safe.

NEAR DEATH

If he had not heeded warnings and continued to stay in the chalet, he would have died.

The bamboo and attap structure he had been in was badly damaged when Typhoon Haiyan swept through Malapascua, an island popular with divers.

Programmer Likim Wong obeyed instructions and headed inland as the typhoon approached the island at the northernmost tip of Cebu last week.

"Lucky for me, the owners and staff at Evolution Diving and Beach Resort heeded the typhoon warnings and moved all the guests to concrete rooms inland on Thursday, in anticipation of the coming storm," Mr Wong, 33, told The New Paper.

One of the most powerful storms on record, Typhoon Haiyan - named Yolanda by the Philippine authorities - slammed into the country on Thursday, with a storm surge two-storeys high and some of the highest winds ever measured in a tropical cyclone.

Mr Wong was on an eight-day trip to Malapascua to do a technical diving course.

"I was supposed to have finished the course on Thursday, with an additional dive on Friday, and then return to Singapore on Saturday. But with the impending storm, we finished on Wednesday instead and spent Thursday hauling the valuable stuff from the resort further inland and securing windows, door, shutters in anticipation," he said.

The staff and guests also stocked up water, chocolates and chips.

"It hit Malapascua on Friday morning from around 8am to noon," Mr Wong said, adding that it was the worst storm he had ever experienced.

"I worked for two years in Taiwan and had been through many storms there, but this one took the cake," he said.

The winds were so strong it uprooted trees and blew away the roofs of homes. Resorts near the beachfront were destroyed.

Reports said most of the homes on the island were destroyed, and resorts near Bounty Beach sustained a lot of damage. But there were no reported deaths.

"Only two men cut their hands badly," Mr Wong said.

Malapascua lost its power and all communication facilities.

NEAR DESPAIR

The only available boat was a mid-sized one.

Mr Wong was in the first group to leave for the port of Maya on Saturday, to try to make their way to Cebu City.

"Maya was also badly hit. When we got to the jetty, we saw a lot of the buildings there had collapsed.

"The only petrol station at the port was also damaged, and people were using fishing reels and coke bottles to get gasoline," he said.

"We were told the roads to Cebu were impassable as trees, poles and power lines had fallen over."

The group turned back to Malapascua.

"You should have seen the disappointed looks on the faces of the second group when they saw us returning," Mr Wong said.

That night, he and other guests cooked dinner using one gas cylinder. The food was from the fridge of the resort.

Around that time in Singapore, Mr Wong's wife Soolin, 36, and their two children, aged six and two and a half, were at Changi Airport waiting in vain for his return.

"I had seen the news about the typhoon and was hopeful Kim got out and was on his way home. The kids were with me at the airport."

But when the last bag left the carousel and the display board showed details of another flight, Mrs Wong said she was fearful and saddened.

"The children kept asking: 'Where's daddy?'. I had to tell them the plane was delayed and we were going home first. That night I couldn't sleep from worrying. Every two hours I called him, but nothing," she said.

FINALLY, HOPE

Just when Mr Wong thought he would have to wait it out on Malapascua, three men arrived by boat after midnight, a signal that there was a way to reach Cebu City.

Once again, he made his way to the port of Maya on Sunday morning and managed to negotiate with a van driver to take the group to Cebu.

"The usual road trip to Cebu would have taken between two-and-a-half and three hours, but this time we took six hours.

"On the way, we had to stop to remove electric poles and push trees off the road with our bare hands.

"At certain places, there were volunteers travelling in off-road vehicles distributing water and food to the villagers. There were hoards of people surrounding them, making it difficult for our van to pass," he said.

"It was only when the van passed Bogon that I got network again. The first person I called was my wife, and then my friend Eugene (Toh) to ask him to get me a flight out," he said.

Mrs Wong said: "When I got a call from Kim, I was so happy I was screaming with joy and crying from relief. The children wanted to speak to him, but I told them to wait till he got home.

"Thank God, Kim got out in one piece."

Mr Wong arrived back that night.

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