In Tacloban, the city in the Philippines that just under two weeks ago received the strongest hammering from Typhoon Haiyan, many former residents have left. Haunting ‘help’ signs remain. In the splintered mess, those who can’t leave must wait.
The United Nations has confirmed that at least 4,500 people were killed; many are missing, and the estimate of the number made homeless is two million. Survivors will depend on international aid for months to come.
In Tacloban alone, some 56,000 are without proper sanitation for water and waste. Those with the strength and initiative are already rebuilding.
Not wanting to stay in a tent, one survivor said: “We are building a temporary shelter. The people inside the [modern concrete] convention centre were asked to vacate so the authorities could clean up. Our house was washed away by the storm surge waves.”
Tacloban was home to 220,000 people. Experts warn that the sooner locals are informed by planners of rehousing possibilities the better it is for moral. Tensions build up from living in tents.
Open air market prices have stabilised slightly in Tacloban. Meanwhile, construction costs are predicted to go up, as money chases limited supplies.
Typhoon Haiyan brought five-metre waves to Tacloban, sweeping hundreds of metres across low-lying land. UN humanitarian coordinators have said that distributing relief goods – notably to remote rural areas – is a “logistical nightmare”. Some 13 million people need recovery assistance.
One of the hard-pressed said: “We don’t have any choice for our future. All we do here is grow vegetables and harvest coconuts. With this tragedy it will take time to get another harvest.”
A woman who had lost everything said: “It’s too hard. We don’t have shelter, clothes or food. It’s just too much.”
Lives were also lost in local government and agencies in the region, meaning trauma for those families as well. That also compounds the ordeal of re-organising.