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Ordinary Heroes: They Lost Their Loved Ones, But They Keep Working to Rebuild Their Town

When Typhoon Haiyan hit central Philippines last November, it killed 6,000 people and more than 1,700 remain missing. The storm destroyed one million homes, leaving many residents stranded in vast tent cities.

Today, large portions of the country still lack access to electricity and clean water. “Without power we cannot have water,” says Ben Rodriguez, disaster response chief in Bogo City. “Our water is dependent on power that pumps the water. I think that rehabilitation will take about 10 years without electricity.”

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More than 1,700 people are still missing after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013. Credit: Dan McDougall

Bogo City, which sits on the northern tip of Cebu Island, took a direct hit from Haiyan. Mayor Celestino Martinez Jr. told the Philippine Sun-Star that the storm “destroyed everything we have here, from infrastructure to agriculture.”

But one structure that survived the storm and its 150-mph winds was a green container outside the city center housing a massive Jenbacher gas engine made by GE. DESCO Inc., a local utility, has been using it as a small power plant that can generate 1 megawatt of electricity, enough for 500 homes.

Haiyan ripped off the doors from the the power plant’s office and stripped the roof from the guardhouse. But the engine remained intact. With most power lines down in Bogo, DESCO was able to switch the machine into an island mode and turn it into a primary power source for the community. It supplied power to hospitals and evacuation centers in the city.

The green container also became a place where locals came to recharge their phones, access the Internet, and get updates about their families.

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The storm destroyed one million homes, leaving many residents stranded in vast tent cities. Credit: Dan McDougall

As the clean up progressed, engineers and linemen, many of whom lost family members in the storm, started threading power lines through the community. “For me, you don’t need to be a doctor to become a hero, a soldier to become a hero,” says DESCO president Sherwin Mendiola. “The linemen of CEDECO, our customer, have lost their families and houses and yet they are working 24 hours a day to restore electricity.“

“For me, in my opinion, they are heroes.”

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Today, large portions of the country still lack access to electricity and clean water. Credit: Dan McDougall

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One of the structures that survived the storm and its 150 mph winds was a green container outside the city center that houses a massive Jenbacher engine from GE. Credit: Dan McDougall

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The green container bearing the GE monogram became a place where locals came to recharge their phones, access the Internet, and get updates about their families. Credit: Dan McDougall

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