Tagalog families to flee in the middle of a typhoon

TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP) – After Typhoon Haiyan’s towering waves flattened scores of villages in the Philippines, Jeremy Garing spent days helping recover from the historic storm that left more than 7,300 people dead or missing and billions of dollars in damage.

“I’m always helping other people, but then at the end, you find out your whole family is gone,” Garing said, recalling those terrible times in 2013. “It’s so painful.”

He and his wife Hyancinth Charm Garing lost seven relatives to the typhoon, including parents, siblings and their 1-year-old daughter. Holding a cellphone photo of her smiling daughter Hywin, the 28-year-old mother finds it hard to believe she’s gone.

Part of the wave of 5 million people displaced by the typhoon, the couple now live in an inland community about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the coast in a community created by the government in response to Haiyan’s death and devastation.

Days after the powerful typhoon, officials knew that rebuilding was not an option as the historic storm would not be the last. They announced a $3.79 billion reconstruction plan that included housing for thousands of storm survivors. They also announced plans to build a protective dike to protect 33,000 residents from future storms and a buffer zone 40 meters (130 feet) from the shore where development is prohibited.

“It’s safe from flooding. It is safe from an active fault line and is far from the coastal area,” said Tedence Jopson, the city’s housing and community development officer for Tacloban, referring to the new community named Tacloban North.

“Remember because we are talking about climate change, our priority is really to move people from the danger zone,” he said, adding that the island country is seeing more frequent typhoons.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series exploring the lives of people around the world forced to move by rising seas, drought, scorching temperatures and other things caused or worsened by climate change.


Rebuilding after the typhoon was a remarkable undertaking for a poor country that has seen more than its share of disasters. When the typhoon hit, the country was still recovering from a recent earthquake that struck a nearby island and from a Muslim rebel attack that destroyed homes.

For months, families have been living in tents or shantytowns as the government struggles to build housing. But over time, authorities built houses for up to 16,000 families in several places, including the Tacloban North community. The tidy houses with brick-colored roofs of people who survived storms are once settled in a wooded valley.

But many people are still mourning their old lives and mourning their loved ones.

Some keep photos of deceased loved ones on their phones and are forced to pass through trucks with rows upon rows of white crosses. A sign at the entrance reads in memory of “the men, women and children who died and those who are still missing and … the many people whose lives were changed forever”.

“Every Friday, I visit the cemetery to light a candle for my wife and don’t forget to pray to the Lord to help us in our daily work,” said Reinfredo Celis, whose wife and brother died in the a typhoon hit him. Birthday. “What is painful is that I am alone now.”

The forcing of climate change to move, within borders or beyond, is an increasing reality that is expected to intensify in the coming years. In the next 30 years, 143 million people are likely to be uprooted by rising seas, drought, searing temperatures and other climate disasters, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published by the United Nations earlier this year.

While no individual storm can be blamed for climate change, studies have found that typhoons are becoming stronger and wetter. In its report on the State of the Climate in Asia 2021 on Monday, the World Meteorological Organization concluded that economic losses from drought, floods and landslides have increased significantly in Asia. The United Nations agency found that weather and water disasters affected 50 million people and caused $35.6 billion in damages.

“Weather, climate and water extremes are becoming more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the WMO, in a statement. “We have more water vapor in the atmosphere, which leads to extreme rainfall and deadly floods. Ocean warming fuels more powerful tropical storms, and rising sea levels increase the impacts.”

In the coastal villages hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Super Typhoon Yolanda, the damage is still on full display – houses with damaged roofs and caved-in walls, others’ foundations with only toilets left. The government has moved to demolish many of the remaining houses, although some residents are refusing to relocate.

A cargo ship that ran ashore is an attraction for tourists. But Emelita Abillille, a fish seller in Anibong village with her husband and five children, said she cries whenever she sees the ship.

Although she would love to move away from the disaster zone, she is afraid that she would not be able to live in Tacloban North, where there are not many shops and jobs.

“We are willing to move there,” said Abillille, whose family was offered a home in the new community. “Our problem is where will we get money for our food? We have to buy water there, food and our transport. Where do I get the money?”

Jeremy Garing is also frustrated with the new community. The 35-year-old hairdresser has to spend the expensive daily commute to his job in Tacloban, although he bought a motorcycle to make it easier.

The comfort is knowing that his family – including a newborn daughter – will be there when he comes home.

“I love it here. We will not move anymore. It’s better here,” Garing said, looking over at his sleeping daughter Chiara Mae. “It’s safe.”


Casey reported from Boston.


Follow Michael Casey on Twitter: @mcasey1


Associated Press climate and environmental coverage is supported by several private foundations. See more about the AP climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all matters.

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