TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES —
All of Tacloban’s 15 radio stations were knocked off the air when Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippine city of 220,000 people. A response within 72 hours by volunteers managed to get an emergency station on the air - the only local mass means for the survivors there to get instant, reliable information.
“It is now 10:07. This is 98.7 FM, First Response Radio broadcasting live in Tacloban city.” The voice of Magnolia Yrasuegui is filling a void. Around the clock, live and on tape, she and others are heard across the destroyed city informing residents on how and where to get help.
The portable station, part of an international non-profit network of radio technicians, is contained in a couple of suitcases that were stored in Manila.
An initial small 50-watt transmitter is being replaced by a more powerful 600-watt unit.
Even the weaker signal, though, could be heard for kilometers emanating from a small antenna erected on the roof of the damaged city hall.
VOA reporter Steve Herman is in the Philippines covering rescue and recovery efforts.
Survivors are seeking accurate information about the fate of family members and their city, according to Yrasuegui. “Rumors have been flying out and they do not know anything about what happened to them, if their relatives are still there. So communication also is aid.”
With no electricity service in the city and batteries a scarce commodity, volunteers from the station have distributed hundreds of solar and crank-up radios to people in evacuation centers.
They get to hear from in-studio guests such as Dr. Joji Tomioka of Japan’s medical team for disaster relief, which is now treating patients in Tacloban.
The five volunteers staffing First Response Radio say they will remain on the air until this city can recover to the point that at least one of its radio stations can resume broadcasting.