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Penzance dad Nigel Thomas flees to safety after Typhoon Haiyan

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

By Josh Barrie

  • Nigel and his son, George, share a coconut on a fallen tree. Nigel Thomas

  • This was once a shop belonging to Aimi's sister, flattened by the typhoon. Nigel Thomas

  • A ruined house, found along the side of the road - photo Nigel Thomas

  • Nigel's wife, Aimi, amid flattened trees near what is left of their home.

  • Buildings and trees were demolished - photo Nigel Thomas

  • Aimi's childhood home was completely destroyed by the storm.

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NIGEL THOMAS feared for his wife and children as one of the largest typhoons ever recorded struck last month.

Originally from Penzance, Mr Thomas was in his home on Leyte Island in the Philippines as Typhoon Haiyan brought a force of nature he described as "supernatural" and "god-like".

At first the father of five was also worrying about his property – but after the super storm left a trail of destruction, flattening houses, destroying power lines and killing more than 5,000 people, he said he is simply "thankful to be alive".

"We are not really bothered about our home now," he said. "So many people have died. It's been terrible – we're just thankful to be OK."

Mr Thomas recalled how he and his family had to leave everything behind to reach safety a week after Typhoon Haiyan – or as he calls it, the Filipino name Yolanda – hit.

The former RSPCA inspector moved to the island's McArthur around ten years ago, and told how he had to flee over the water to Cebu City with his family.

"We had to make a decision. People were leaving in droves because of a lack of food," he said.

"We don't know what will happen to our home and possessions but that doesn't seem so important now.

"Some people back on McArthur are really struggling."

Mr Thomas is now renting a two-bedroom house with his wife, five children and his daughter's boyfriend. He said the mice and cockroaches which infest their temporary home are nothing when he considers what others are facing.

"When we left to get the ferry to Cebu City there were bodies lying on the side of the road. It was shocking," he recounted.

"After the typhoon hit we stayed for a week to clear debris – but in that time only two helicopters came and dropped off two bags of rice.

"The devastation and destruction was unreal. The prisoners (from a local jail) had escaped too and there were some nasty rumours.

"I was really very anxious about my family and staying safe – vulnerable people were in trouble. We had no choice but to leave."

Mr Thomas said he could not believe the magnitude of the storm. He said coconut trees were knocked down "like nine pins" and houses left in ruins.

"We were on the top floor of our home and I had some brandy to calm my nerves," he explained.

"I thought I had too much to drink because I was swaying around but I saw my wife crouching on the floor with our kids and realised the whole building was shaking – and it was built very strong.

"The force of it was uncanny; supernatural."

Fortunately for Mr Thomas and his family, they managed to travel to where things are "relatively normal".

He added he was really thankful to all his family in the UK who are supporting him. His mother, Jeanne Thomas, who is back in Cornwall, said she is happy he is safe and well but is still worried.

"I call him everyday," she said. "I feel like I would like to be there with him."

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