THREE months after the largest storm ever to hit land, Typhoon
Haiyan, devastated the Philippines, some Filipinos have begun to
rebuild their lives.
The area around the city of Tacloban, on the central island of
Leyte, bore the full force of the 195-mph winds on 7 November (
News, 8 November). The storm surge brought raging waters up to
one kilometre inland, and powerful winds flattened buildings across
the town and surrounding villages.
But, with the help of a host of aid agencies, many communities
survived the ordeal, and have begun to get back to normality.
A mother of three, Carine Opiniano, from the fishing village of
Old Kawayan, near Tacloban, said that her house was completely
destroyed when Haiyan struck.
"My baby was three months old when the typhoon hit," she said on
Tuesday. "He fell and hit his head while we tried to evacuate to
the mountains. We were praying hard that we would be able to
survive. The children still feel scared any time it is raining and
it is a strong wind."
Mrs Opiniano and her family still have to live with a relative
on the hill above her shattered village.
The charity World Vision arrived in the days after the storm
hit, providing water-hygiene kits for the village. Its supply of
clean water was knocked out by the typhoon.
Her children are back at school, thanks to a tent and materials
from the aid agency. Three months later, World Vision were still
distributing jerry cans and water-purification tablets.
"Whenever there is relief food, I am happy, because we really
need it," Mrs Opiniano said. "My husband couldn't work until
yesterday, so we had no income and were totally dependent on
The marks of Haiyan were obvious across the island. In many
places, more than half the homes consisted of propped-up debris
covered in blue tarpaulin roofs. Hundreds of thousands of coconut
trees had been felled.
More than 5000 people died in the Tacloban area, and Sean Ng, a
local programme manager with World Vision, said that some 80,000
people were still living in the evacuation centres. The majority of
schools were destroyed, along with Tacloban Airport's main terminal
But there are signs of life returning to the town. Debris is
starting to be cleared, the dead have been buried, and small
businesses such as taxis, and even an Italian restaurant, have
reopened. "The improvement in Tacloban and surrounding areas has
been remarkable," Mr Ng said.
In almost every village and town, the word "Help" had been
spray-painted in huge letters on to the road or buildings. But
alongside these marks of desperation were carefully painted signs
thanking aid agencies and international donors for their
When the typhoon hit the town of Dulag, the winds were so strong
that a 30-metre-tall steel telecoms mast was bent in two. One
family have taken to sheltering in one of the smashed giant
satellite dishes that now rest on the ground.
Shierreann Senasi's home was also torn from its foundations in
Dulag. "There was a big wind like a tornado, and one big wave," she
said. "I was hugging my entire family and the house was shaking. It
was totally washed away. The water came up to my waist. I was
praying 'Papa Jesus - please stop the storm.'"
Whenever it rains, water pours into the makeshift shack she has
built next to the ruins of her houses. The whole town's fishing
boats were destroyed in the storm, so she has no income, and is
totally reliant on aid to survive.
Even as she spoke, however, government workers were restoring
the electricity supply to the town. World Vision will also soon
begin to deliver the necessary materials and training so that the
locals can begin to rebuild their damaged homes.
The loss of livelihood is a common theme around Tacloban. Apart
from the swept-away fishing boats, coconut farmers said that so
many trees had been felled they had no way to earn any money. In
the coastal town of Tanauan, a large oil factory was gutted by the
typhoon, cutting off employment and wages for most of the town.
A UN programme is attempting to tackle this problem by paying
jobless Filipinos to work clearing debris, and rebuilding damaged
Mr Ng said that World Vision's focus was now shifting from
emergency relief to assisting recovery. But the challenge for the
authorities and the aid agencies to support the Philippines to
bounce back from Haiyan remains vast.