Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Typhoon Haiyan: I lost my father when massive storm cut power to his life support machine

Rick Lapuz and wife May with a picture of his father Rudy, who died during Typhoon Haiyan

A Belfast man originally from the city destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan has spoken of his heartbreak after his father died when medical equipment keeping him alive in a Filipino hospital failed during the disaster.

Rick Lapuz (42), who lives in east Belfast but was born in Tacloban – which the storm ripped apart – said he was devastated to learn he had missed his father's funeral.

The married father-of-one is now concerned about his four brothers and a sister living in the disaster zone in the aftermath of the typhoon.

Rick, who works at a KFC restaurant, hopes to travel home but said the cost of flights was preventing him from making the journey now.

Mr Lapuz (right) was rushed to hospital four weeks ago with lung problems. The 79-year-old's condition stablised, however he was reliant on a machine to help him breathe.

But after a 20ft wave hit the city the electrics in the hospital failed.

The machines keeping Rick's father alive stopped working and he did not survive.

He was among the 2,300 people killed and millions affected by the storm, one of the most powerful on record.

Rick faced an agonising wait not knowing what had happened to his family.

After days of worry he received a call from one brother with the devastating news.

"He had to have a tube in his chest to help him breathe and that needed electricity to work," said Rick. "He was getting better and joking with people."

With thousands of bodies being buried, his family could not hold on for Rick to travel back.

He is now coming to terms with the fact he missed his father's funeral.

"My brother said 'we could not wait for you' with everything that is going on over there. All I will see of my dad is the grave."

Rick, who has lived here for 10 years, said he could have been a victim, too, had he travelled over to help look after his father four weeks ago, like he had wanted to.

But Rick and his wife May – a nurse in the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald – still hope to travel to visit his father's grave and see his family.

"It might be hard now but my wife is organising boxes of donations to send over.

"We just want to help somehow," he said.

"That place is just like a ghost town.

"There is no water, no food. People are just walking and walking."

He added: "I know my brothers are alive – but I don't know if they are hurt or where they are living."

A spokesperson for KFC said: "We are deeply saddened to hear of Rick's loss and our heartfelt condolences go out to him and his family in the Philippines.

"We are giving Rick some time off during this difficult period and have offered emotional support and counselling if needed."

FACTFILE

Typhoon Haiyan has affected an estimated 11.3m people, four million of whom are believed to be children. More than 2,300 people have been confirmed dead, but that figure is expected to rise as information is collected from other areas.

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