‘It’s cataclysmic... it’s worse than anything I’ve seen in my life’ – Sunderland couple whose Philippines holiday became a mercy mission

Tom and Chona Marie harding who are currently in Manila, Phillipines, helping out with disaster relief work

Tom and Chona Marie harding who are currently in Manila, Phillipines, helping out with disaster relief work

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A SUNDERLAND couple caught up in Typhoon Haiyan today told how their family holiday has become a mercy mission.

Tim Harding and wife Chona Marie, of Fulwell, arrived in Manila to scenes of “cataclysmic” devastation, including seeing bodies hanging from trees.

AP Photo

AP Photo

Tim, 42, said: “I’m a strong person, but it’s hard to put into words the things we are seeing.

“There are bodies hanging from trees where the water has flooded back out after the storm.”

The couple spent 33 hours trying to get to the storm-hit capital city of the Philippines. After numerous diversions, they arrived there yesterday, only to be greeted by scenes of complete devastation.

“It’s worse than when the tsunami hit on December 26, 2004,” said Tim, a workforce and command centre manager for IT company HP Europe.

“It’s worse than when Mount Pinatubo erupted. It’s worse than anything I’ve seen in my life.”

Tim and Chona Marie have now offered their services to the Philippine Red Cross and British Embassy to attempt to help those in the worst-affected areas of the country, just as a second typhoon, called Zoraida, looks set to batter the already-desolate region, made up of more than 7,000 islands, today.

More than 10,000 people have already lost their lives as the typhoon swept through South-East Asia, crushing everything in its path.

Emergency aid workers have been hampered by blocked roads and damaged airports as they race to deliver tents, food and medicines.

“It’s just cataclysmic, but there was a fantastic piece of news earlier when a three-year-old child was found below some debris,” said Tim, a disaster management worker for the Filipino government in the early 1990s.

The couple, waiting to be deployed on a C-130 Hercules military aircraft to offer further assistance, have been working with holidaymakers from across the world to help those who have been left with nothing.

“People are stealing food to survive,” said Tim. “It’s that bad.

“Holidaymakers who have come to visit some of the best beaches in the world are now doing their bit to help out. It’s like something in the World War Two Blitz. I’m working alongside people from Denmark and Australia.

“We are here for two weeks and a bit, but things can change because of your priorities, you know.”

About four million people are said to have been affected by the storm after it hit the islands Leyte, Samar and the northern part of Cebu.

The British Government has pledged £6million in immediate aid to help those across the Asian nation.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said NHS experts had been flown over with shelter and water purification kits.

She added: “The first thing is to get the logistic routes open, so we can start to get those life-saving supplies to people.

“We need then to work on the ground to get some semblance of order and start to put families back together.”

The Disaster Emergency Committee, a co-operative made up of more than a dozen leading UK charities, is expected to launch an appeal to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis.

The group of 14 organisations, including the British Red Cross and Oxfam, has raised more than £1.1billion in response to previous such tragedies.