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10 years after typhoon, Philippine city rises from the ruins

By AFP
06 November 2023   |   7:30 am
Filipino widow Agatha Ando has learned to laugh again in the decade after Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the central Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people and leaving millions homeless. Fierce winds tore apart houses and toppled trees as tsunami-like waves whipped up by the storm obliterated mostly poor coastal communities on November 8, 2013.…

This photo taken on October 13, 2023, shows a person walking past debris on waterfront plots where houses once stood before Super Typhoon Haiyan struck in 2013, in Tacloban city, Leyte province. – The Philippines, which endures more than 20 major storms a year, has plenty of experience dealing with disasters. But that did not prepare them for one of the strongest typhoons on record. Haiyan unleashed winds of up to 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour that flattened towns and cities across a 600-kilometre stretch of central islands. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP) /

Filipino widow Agatha Ando has learned to laugh again in the decade after Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the central Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people and leaving millions homeless.

Fierce winds tore apart houses and toppled trees as tsunami-like waves whipped up by the storm obliterated mostly poor coastal communities on November 8, 2013.

Ando’s husband and three of her siblings refused to leave their homes in Tacloban City that were less than 100 metres (109 yards) from the sea and died along with four children when water and debris crashed over them.

In the aftermath, their mangled bodies were hastily wrapped in wet blankets and a scavenged tarpaulin, and buried a few metres from where Ando’s house now stands.

“I am now able to laugh again, but I will never forget them,” said Ando, 57, who survived because she heeded official warnings to go inland before the storm hit.

Ten years on, the family’s mass grave is one of the few visible reminders of the devastation in Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province.

Tacloban bore the brunt of Haiyan’s fury and had to be rebuilt almost from scratch.

Now, it looks like any other Filipino city, with traffic-clogged streets and bustling restaurants.

An 18-kilometre (11-mile) seawall has been built along the coast to protect it against future storm surges.

“I think we have fully recovered,” Mayor Alfred Romualdez told AFP during a recent visit to the city of around 280,000 people.

As the Philippines prepares to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Haiyan, Romualdez said survivors had “moved on” from the disaster.

“But I don’t think they’ll ever forget,” he said.

– ‘A lot of lessons learned’ –

Scientists have long warned that storms are becoming more powerful as the world becomes warmer because of human-driven climate change.

The Philippines, which typically endures more than 20 major storms a year, has plenty of experience dealing with disasters.

But that did not prepare the country for one of the strongest typhoons on record.

Haiyan unleashed winds of up to 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour that flattened towns and cities across a 600-kilometre (370-mile) stretch of central islands.

Coastal houses and buildings thought safe enough to be used as evacuation centres on Leyte and Samar islands were swamped by storm surges up to five metres high.

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