A man’s dream diving holiday to the Philippines turned into a nightmare when he was caught in the strongest typhoon every recorded.
Nigel Walters, 47, who is store manager of Morrisons in Stamford, feared for his life as the tropical island he was holidaying on was flattened by the high winds.
Keen diver Nigel was at the end of a seven day trip to Malapascua island to swim with the world’s rarest sharks, Thresher sharks, when Typhoon Haiyan hit on Friday last week.
The storm is one of the most powerful ever recorded on land and battered the island with winds up to 170mph.
The confirmed death toll for the country stands at more than 2,300 but officials say it is likely to rise.
Nigel, who has been the store manager in Stamford for six years, and his friend Mark Evans, from Norfolk, were moved to the back of the Exotic Dive Hotel to get shelter.
He said: “There was an hour there, during the worst of it, when I thought we are not going to get through this.
“Me and my friend sat on our beds and no-one spoke for an hour. The whole hotel was shaking.
“The patio doors were blown off and the air conditioning units blew in and the room was filling up with water and leaves.”
“It was awful. It has been a shocking experience.”
The island’s infrastructure was devastated, with roads and paths unaccessible because of the debris.
Nigel said: “Boats where smashed, houses were flattened and the island is in a state.
“It was amazing to see how it changed from being so beautiful to getting shredded by the storm.”
He added: “There were a lot of guests in the hotel from Europe. We all got together and cleared paths, cut down trees. Doing whatever we could to help.
“Everyone pitched in to help the locals out. It was great to see.”
The island was still without electricity when Nigel and his friend were able to fly out, two-and-a-half days later than planned. He landed back in the UK on Tuesday morning.
Nigel was unable to contact his family, girlfriend and friends to reassure them he was safe until he escaped the island. He said they were besides themselves.
Nigel, was unharmed and did not see any dead bodies but there were deaths reported on Malapascua.
It was only when they landed on the mainland that the full extent of devastation caused by the storm became clear to them.
Nigel said there were people holding signs, begging for water and food. He said: “There is a need to get cash and aid out there as soon as possible. I don’t think we have got it out there quick enough.”
“These people just want to get back to normality as soon as possible.
“I think it is going to take them months to get back to normal and it could take five to 10 years to get the island back to how it was.”
An appeal has been launched to help disaster-ravaged Philippines.
The Disasters Emergency Committee, which brings together 14 major UK charities, launched an appeal on Tuesday and so far has raised more than £13m.
To donate to the appeal, people can visit www.dec.org.uk/ or call 0370 60 60 900.
To donate by post send a cheque made payable to DEC Philippines Typhoon Appeal to PO Box 999, London EC3A 3AA.
To donate £5 on your mobile you can text DONATE to 70000. Texts cost £5 and the whole £5 will go to the DEC Philippines Typhoon Appeal. You must be over 16 and ask the bill payers permission. For terms, conditions and full information go to dec.org.uk
Oxfam in High Street, Stamford, is also taking donations.
Nigel and staff at Morrisons in Stamford will be collecting from today (Friday).
The Salvation Army has launched a separate appeal and is taking donations at its Bourne store, Sally Anne’s, in West Street.
Salvation Army teams in the Philippines are already providing assistance to the thousands of people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.