WOODSTOCK – As a college student in the Philippines, Eric Miranda remembers surviving the worst storm of his life.
In 1984, Typhoon Ike ravaged the central Philippines, killing more than 1,000 people and displacing thousands more. In Miranda’s hometown of Cebu, the storm toppled communication towers, caused sinkholes in piers and closed his college for two weeks.
So when Miranda, now a Woodstock resident, heard that an even stronger storm would hit the Philippines he feared the worst.
“It went about 30 miles north of where my sister lives,” he said. “It kind of missed us by a miracle.”
On Friday afternoon, Typhoon Haiyan blew through the central Philippines, destroying 70 percent to 80 percent of the structures in its path, Police Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria said. Initial reports estimated that 10,000 people were killed, but Philippines President Benigno Aquino told CNN the death toll may be only 2,000 to 2,500.
After some initial trouble communicating with his sister, Miranda was able to reach her using Viber, a free text messaging service. Her home didn’t sustain any water damage or structural damage, and she only had trouble commuting because of closed bridges.
But Miranda’s other sister, who lives in California, had friends back home who weren’t as fortunate.
“Her friend’s whole family died,” Miranda said. “The storm took the roof right off their home.”
Miranda said the McHenry County residents he knows who used to live in the Philippines all have contacted their families, and he is not aware of any fatalities.
Miranda said it’s particularly difficult to dodge a typhoon’s path in the Philippines because even when you head “inland” to escape the brunt of the storm, you’re still only 60 miles or so from the shore. And even though homes have been built to withstand high winds, they often are no match for bigger storms, he said.
“Houses in the Philippines are built with cinder blocks, and they are still destroyed,” he said. “Houses in the United States wouldn’t make it. The brick and wood would blow away.”