| TACLOBAN, Philippines
TACLOBAN, Philippines Nov 13 In the chapel of
the only functioning public hospital in typhoon-ravaged
Tacloban, seven tiny, premature babies lie sweltering in intense
heat, looked over by anxious mothers and a wooden statue of
An eighth, born two days after Friday's monster storm hit
the central Philippines, is kept alive only by his exhausted
grandmother who pumps air by hand into his sick lungs. Only one
baby, his face bruised purple from a hurried delivery by
forceps, is strong enough to cry.
The others are eerily quiet as they battle to survive in a
hospital without power, clean water, and running out of
essential medical supplies.
It remains the only medical option in the city of Tacloban
for most survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, which may have killed
thousands of people. The storm destroyed all but two hospitals
in the city, one of them private.
"Our immediate problems are immense," said Dr. Alberto de
Leon, the 62-year-old director of the hospital, the Eastern
Visayas Regional Medical Center, adding he nearly lost his own
life in the surge of ocean water that accompanied Haiyan.
Caught unawares by the wall of water that engulfed the city
of 220,000 on Friday morning, he clung to a refrigerator as the
living room of his single-storey home filled almost to the
At the entrance of the hospital, next to a sign asking
people to take bodies straight to the morgue, urgent needs are
listed on a makeshift sign: a generator, drinking water, oxygen,
cooking gas, medicine and manpower.
A single gasoline-fuelled generator is the only source of
power, leaving patients to sweat in dark corridors as they await
treatment from a wide range of wounds caused by the churning,
That also means there is no way to stop the bodies of 18
victims of the typhoon from decomposing in the morgue.
"I'm worried the newborns will get hospital-acquired
infections," said de Leon. "The cadavers at the back could be a
Many of the 80 babies born in the hospital since the typhoon
came prematurely, their mothers shocked into labour by Friday's
trauma. In the chapel, a tangle of intravenous drips and oxygen
has been planted between the pews to keep the newborns alive,
but basic medicines are running short, nurses said.
The mostly Roman Catholic Philippines has one of Asia's
highest birth rates, particularly in poorer areas such as the
central Visayas region.
Nanette Salutan, 40, went into premature labour hours after
the storm blew the roof off her house in a small town near
She then endured a two-hour ride on the back of a motorbike,
dodging fallen trees and electricity poles, before giving birth
by flashlight in the hospital early on Saturday.
Heavily pregnant Mary Jane Tevez, 16, and her husband
escaped from their own collapsing house on Friday only to be
trapped in the rapidly crumbling home of a neighbour. She began
feeling unbearable pain in her pelvis even as they fought for
their lives by sheltering under thick plywood.
Their baby boy was born early on Saturday. Its name?
Yolando, the masculine version of Typhoon Haiyan's Philippine
"It's because we don't want to forget what we had to go
through and because we got another life," said his father,
(Editing by Dean Yates)