• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Typhoon Haiyan casts fishing community adrift

News Stories, 2 December 2013

© UNHCR/R. Rocamora
Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, Francisco, Rodolfo and Felix Saballa stand among the debris left by the storm in Tacloban. Their brother is missing and the brothers lost documents.

TACLOBAN, Philippines, December 2 (UNHCR) It's hard to move on when you're surrounded by death. Every day the Saballa brothers sit and stare at the ruins of what was once their proud neighbourhood by the sea. They watch people pick at what's left wooden beams and iron sheets from collapsed homes, tattered clothes that are washed and worn again, soaked stuffed toys that are dried in the sun the detritus of Typhoon Haiyan.

As the sprawling mountain of debris starts to clear, the brothers dread what they will inevitably find underneath. "You can tell from the smell that there are still bodies buried under all this," said Rodolfo Saballa, looking at the sailboat that ran aground and now sits atop the rubble. "We are just waiting for the news."

At 54, Rodolfo is the oldest of the five brothers who grew up in Tacloban's Barangay (district) 61, a fishing community living on stilts along the coast. The night before the November 8 typhoon hit, his family sought shelter in brother Wilfredo's house, thinking that the concrete structure was safer. But the house collapsed in the storm surge, killing seven people instantly. Five are still missing, including several children and Wilfredo, a senior policeman due for retirement.

"We were so used to typhoons, we were confident nothing would happen. Our father never left home during the previous storms, he simply strengthened the posts," said Felix, 48. "Learn from this do not be stubborn like us."

In the aftermath, the surviving family members chose not to move into the nearby Astrodome evacuation centre as it was "overcrowded and dirty." They now live in makeshift shacks near the water. Home is a tarpaulin over some poles. It leaks when it rains and mosquitoes are rampant.

"We decided to stay here so, when new bodies are found, we can rush over to check if we know them," said Rodolfo. Besides the immediate task of identifying the dead, the brothers have no idea what to do next. Two who are fish vendors say the fishing business is on hold as the dock for boats has been destroyed.

"No one is going out to fish. No one will buy fish. There are dead bodies out there," said 51-year-old Francisco. "Everything is in limbo. We don't know how to rise from this tragedy, how to start our lives again."

Their lives could get more complicated amid reports that the government has ordered "no-build zones" along the country's coastlines to mitigate the risk of further typhoons and storm surges. The details and implications for people like the Saballas are still unclear.

As the co-lead of the inter-agency protection cluster responding to this natural disaster, UNHCR is monitoring such issues with partners to ensure the safety and access to livelihoods of people affected by relocation.

Rodolfo doesn't know what the future holds, but he is sure about one thing: "Our life is here. We have no choice but to stay and rebuild."

By Vivian Tan in Tacloban, Philippines

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Six months after Typhoon Haiyan carved its deadly and destructive path through the central Philippines and forcibly displaced 4 million Filipinos, the area is like a big construction site as people get on with rebuilding their flattened homes as well as their lives. Many have moved into renovated homes while thousands of those who fled to cities like Cebu and Manila have returned home. But large numbers still live in tents or former evacuation centres; full recovery is still some way off and many people need help. UNHCR is working with the government and other partners to address the challenges and find solutions for the displaced. The refugee agency has provided assistance to more than 600,000 people, distributing shelter materials and household items, including solar-powered lanterns in areas where there is still no electricity. UNHCR is also supporting a government-led mobile civil registration project to give 100,000 people continued access to social welfare, education and employment. Photographer Jeoffrey Maitem marked the six-month milestone by visiting communities recovering from Typhoon Haiyan.

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

An estimated 13 million people were affected when Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8. Thousands were killed and about 3 million are believed to be displaced - some of them living in evacuation sites, others on the ruins of their former homes. Tacloban City in Leyte province was one of the hardest-hit areas. A week after the typhoon made landfall, large parts of its coast remain flattened and piles of debris still line the streets. Working with the Philippines government and UN and NGO partners, UNHCR is airlifting emergency supplies for thousands of survivors. The agency is delivering tents, plastic sheets, mosquito nets and other critical aid. It is also co-leading the protection cluster with the government, working to identify vulnerable people and ensuring that they have access to basic assistance and services. UNHCR has appealed for US$15 million to meet these critical needs. UNHCR is now present in Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte province, as well as Guiuan in Eastern Samar province.

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

One Year On: Thousands Still Recovering from Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan - one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record anywhere - ran ashore in the central Philippines, causing wide devastation, displacing 4 million people and killing at least 6,300. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. While most of the 4.1 million people who were displaced have either returned home to rebuild, or been relocated, solutions are still needed for some 20,000 people either living in shelters or - in a small number of cases - with host families.

The UN refugee agency and partners such as shipments and logistics giant United Parcel Service (UPS) were swift to respond last November, contributing funds for immediate needs and for long-term recovery. Funding was used to provide critical aid during the emergency, including tents, solar-powered lanterns and protection kits.

A year after the typhoon struck, some people in Leyte province, one of the areas hardest hit, are still rebuilding their lives. People still need help with physical dwellings, water and sanitation, hygiene, as well as land and property issues. Some live in tents, others have moved into transitional housing and some families are building new houses. Despite the trauma, there is a real sense of hope for the future among the people of Leyte. Photographer Phil Behan and UNHCR staff member Marjanna Bergman visited the central Philippines to record the situation today.

One Year On: Thousands Still Recovering from Typhoon Haiyan

Philippines: One Year After Typhoon HaiyanPlay video

Philippines: One Year After Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8 last year, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines, causing widespread devastation and killing thousands of people. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. Bartolome on Leyte Island looks back at his family's experience, including living on a dredger for several weeks after their home was destroyed.
Philippines: One Year After Typhoon HaiyanPlay video

Philippines: One Year After Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8 last year, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines, causing widespread devastation and killing thousands of people. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. Bartolome on Leyte Island looks back at his family's experience, including living on a dredger for several weeks after their home was destroyed.
Philippines : Rebuilding a Year After Typhoon HaiyanPlay video

Philippines : Rebuilding a Year After Typhoon Haiyan

One year ago, the central Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, a massive storm that wiped out entire communities and killed more than 6,000 people. Today, the residents of hard-hit areas such as Leyte Island are well on their way to rebuilding their lives.