Northern Ireland family's terror as Typhoon Haiyan hits Philippines
A Belfast family have spoken of their terror as Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, claiming at least three lives and injuring many others.
Brian Longridge, from the Shankill area, and his wife Mirte were forced to flee their home in the south east Asian country as one of the strongest tropical cyclones to ever hit land battered densely populated areas with winds of up to 200mph.
The storm ripped apart buildings and triggered landslides as it ploughed across the central islands.
Millions of people living in vulnerable areas were forced to seek shelter across 20 provinces, as streets turned in to rivers of debris.
In correspondence to their friend in Belfast, Pastor Jack McKee, Mirte wrote: "We had to flee to Marco Polo, because it said with a storm that strength, a 7m surge would come.
"Our house is 5m high; the whole building shook, and we all cried because we seriously thought we were dying."
The capital Manila has largely avoided damage from the category five superstorm, but elsewhere hundreds of thousands of homes have been damaged and destroyed.
Communications and power are down in many areas and the full extent of the death toll and damage will take weeks to emerge.
Mr Longridge, a former musician and worship leader at Ballysillan Elim Church – during Pastor Jack McKee's 10 years of ministry there – met his wife, the mother of their three daughters, in Holland.
The couple honeymooned in the Philippines and returned there several years ago to work in leper colonies and with homeless families.
Last night Pastor McKee told the Belfast Telegraph he was relieved his friends were safe.
He said: "On hearing about the size of the storm making its way towards the Philippines I was immediately concerned for the safety of Brian and his family.
"We have stayed in touch as the storm made its way across Cebu where they live.
"We are so delighted that the storm has finally passed and that they are all safe."
The people of the Philippines are used to storms, with more than 20 this year so far.
Typhoon Haiyan is expected to lessen by today as it moves towards the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Laos and China are in its potential path. In 2012 Typhoon Bopha destroyed much of the Philippine southern islands, killing more than 1,100 people.