A&E staff who tended typhoon victims tell of survivors’ trauma

Debbie Lau, left, and Heather McClelland
Debbie Lau, left, and Heather McClelland
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Three A&E staff at a Yorkshire NHS trust have returned home after giving emergency help to typhoon victims in the Philippines as part of the UK’s disaster response.

Sister Deborah Lau, consultant nurse Heather McClelland and A&E consultant Amjid Mohammed, who work at the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, cared for hundreds of survivors in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

The two nurses, who have previously worked on disasters in Haiti and China, were based on warships HMS Daring and HMS Illustrious and were helicoptered to isolated islands devastated by the storm to carry out health assessments and ran emergency clinics in the worst-hit areas.

Helping children deal with the psychological trauma was a major part of their work.

Deborah Lau said: “The area is used to typhoons but the scale of this one was so big they called it ‘the big wind’ and they were very scared. The little ones did not want to go back into their boats to get to school or go to clinics to get vaccinations and had to be persuaded it was safe.

“They had barely anything left, on some islands they put up banners to welcome us or to ask for help. They gave us shells which they usually trade for food and water as a thank-you, and always had a cup of tea for us.”

Heather McClelland added: “The people living there are so resilient and were just getting on with their lives when we arrived. Rebuilding had already started. That is where the aid is needed, for construction materials, to rebuild their homes and fishing boats.”

She added: “They require help rebuilding their homes, their schools, their churches and we hope people remember them at this time of year.”

The three flew out on two separate missions sponsored by Save the Children and the Department for International Development.