In the shadow of the typhoon

Mercy mission: Shaun Edgerley
Mercy mission: Shaun Edgerley

Three months after Typhoon Haiyan carved a 100-mile wide swathe of destruction through the Central Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people, three aid workers from Lancashire have been back home this week for a brief rest.

Rob Whitby, Mo Desai and Shaun Edgerley have been taking a well-earned breather before jetting back out to Manila to resume their mercy mission.

But all three know there is no prospect of a respite for the people they are trying to help. The survivors of Haiyan must attempt to rebuild their shattered lives, aware that they could be facing it all again one day.

“Their resilience is just incredible,” said Rob, 31, from Coppull. “They are rebuilding their homes from anything they can find. But they have done it before and they will probably do it again. They just get on with it, helping each other as best they can.

“Living in the region they do this is all too familiar. They were still rebuilding from the last one when Haiyan struck.

“And while they’re rebuilding from this they will be preparing for the next one. Our job is to help them rebuild stronger.”

Rob, a former student at Preston’s Newman College, is working as a recovery and reconstruction lead for the UK’s Department For International Development (DFID).

Fellow Newman student Mo, 35, from Avenham, Preston, is a deputy programme manager for the British aid effort.

Shaun, 32, who went to St Michael’s High School, Chorley and now lives in Clayton-le-Woods, is a preparedness and response advisor.

All three are with the DFID and were flown out to the Philippines soon after the typhoon struck.

“It hit on the Thursday and I was there the following Monday,” said Mo. “Team members were already there. It was a scene of utter devastation.

“We have been working mainly in Manila which is away from the areas which were badly affected. But in my second week I was in Cebu where there was damage. It is unbelievable how many people this has affected.”

The UK aid effort has totalled £90m and the people of the Philippines are reported to be overwhelmed by the generosity of those who have come to their assistance.

“You see signs all over the place saying ‘thank you’ to the UK or the US, they are so appreciative,” said Rob. “The support from Britain has been terrific. For some reason it seems to have resonated with the people here.

“This was a freak of nature, not something that was predicted. It just shows that we can’t deal with Mother Nature when she is that strong.”