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TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP) — The government is back at work, and markets are laden with fruits, pork, fish and bread. Shredded trees are sprouting new leaves. Above all, the sounds of a city getting back on its feet fill the air: the roar of trucks hauling debris, the scrape of shovel along pavement, the ping of hammer on nails.
One month since Typhoon Haiyan, signs of progress in this shattered Philippine city are mixed with reminders of the scale of the disaster and the challenges ahead: Bodies are still being uncovered from beneath the debris. Tens of thousands are living amid the ruins of their former lives, underneath shelters made from scavenged materials and handouts.
City administrator Tecson Lim says a sense of "normalcy" has returned and has begun talking of a silver lining: "The opportunity to transform our city into a global city, a city that is climate change resilient and that can perhaps be a model."
Rebuilding will take at least three years, and success will depend on good governance and access to funds. The Philippines is currently posting impressive economic growth, but corruption is endemic and the country remains desperately poor, with millions living in slums.
National and regional authorities had ample warnings and time to prepare before the storm hit early on the morning of Nov. 8, but evacuation orders were either ignored or not enforced in a region regularly hit by powerful typhoons. Haiyan plowed through Tacloban and other coastal areas, leaving over 5,700 dead and more than 1,700 missing throughout the region. Some 4 million people were displaced.
But one couple in the town had other things on their minds Saturday.
Earvin Nierva and Rise El Mundo exchanged marriage vows at a church and then posed for photos in a hard-hit area of the city. "This gives hope to people that we can rise up," said El Mundo.
Pumping his fist, her new husband said, "Rise Tacloban!"
The storm, one of the strongest to hit land on record, triggered an international response, led by the United States and U.N. agencies.
The Philippine government has joined them in paying for food-for-work and cash-for-work emergency employment for thousands who lost their livelihoods. The workers clean up the twisted houses, trees and others debris that still cover large parts of the city and receive about 500 pesos ($11.36) a day.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop separately flew to Tacloban on Sunday to check on typhoon assistance provided by their governments. Onodera stooped and exchanged high-fives with children who lined up to greet him at a Tacloban school that was turned into a shelter for 365 displaced families.
Bishop chatted with patients at a field hospital set up with Australian help outside Tacloban's ruined airport and pledged to increase her country's financial aid.
On Friday, the World Bank approved $500 million in budget support that the Philippine government can use for short-term recovery and reconstruction. It is also providing technical assistance in designing housing, hospitals, schools and public facilities that can withstand super typhoons, strong earthquakes and severe floods.
Lim, the administrator, said a development master plan soon to be completed calls for people living in areas prone to storm surges to be relocated farther inland. He said while some residents might resist moving from their former neighborhoods, many others now were receptive to relocation after surviving the typhoon.
Rebuilding after the typhoon is a colossal work for an impoverished country that is still recovering from a recent earthquake that hit a nearby island and a Muslim rebel attack that razed houses in clashes in September in the south. Haiyan destroyed or damaged more than a million homes.
The storm led to a breakdown in government services and there were scenes of chaos as hungry survivors broke into shops, homes and gasoline stations. Lim said 19 of the 26 government agencies in the city were now operating and about 15 percent of the city has electricity.
"Psychologically, there is a sense of normalcy," he said.
Thousands are already beginning to rebuild in areas that might well be designated not safe for human habitation.
Priscila Villarmenta was cradling a granddaughter while male relatives were fixing metal sheets and plywood to her destroyed home, which was torn apart by one of four cargo ships that were swept into her neighborhood by a tsunami-like storm surge triggered by the storm.
"We are again starting our livelihood and building our house," she said.
In Palo town near Tacloban, dozens of names of villagers who perished were read in a memorial Sunday before Archbishop John Du celebrated Mass at a cathedral where the moon was visible through the steel rafters of the roof that was blown away by the typhoon.
Held to remember the dead and provide healing and closure, the ceremony was attended by survivors who recounted their tragic ordeals, including a Roman Catholic priest, who lost his mother and presided over her funeral Mass.
"We have lost so much of what we own," Du said in the homily. "But here, friends, we have never lost hope."
As darkness fell, hundreds of villagers piled out of the cathedral with lit candles and walked in a procession to a mass grave of about 100 typhoon victims in the church compound that was fenced off by white ribbon and marked by flowers. Du blessed the dead then the grieving survivors began to walk away, leaving clusters of candles at the edge of the grave flickering in the wind.
Millions have been affected by the destruction of Typhoon #Haiyan in the Philippines.
How to help donate to victims of super typhoon Haiyan
With reports of more than 10,000 estimated casualties, and an excess of 9 million people affected overall, “super typhoon” Haiyan is said to be one of the most devastating storms ever to hit landfall.
The Red Cross and other agencies say they expect the number of casualties and total damage to soar as Haiyan is thought likely to return to category 5 status again.
"It is too early to tell what exactly we will need, but definitely after the relief operations there is going to be a lot of work in terms of reconstruction and rehabilitation, particularly for people who have lost their homes," Philippines Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia Jr. told Voice of America.
And while the U.S State Department and military are stepping in to assist in the emergency response, there are a number of organizations that are accepting private donations to help in the relief effort.
Here are a few places where you can donate to help:
- The United Nations World Food Programme estimates that 2.5 million people will need food assistance in the regions affected by Haiyan. They have set up a page where you can donate to efforts aimed at providing relief to families and children affected by the typhoon.
- UNICEF and UNISEFNZ is accepting donations to directly assist the children affected by Haiyan. “Children urgently need access to safe water, hygiene supplies, food, shelter and a safe environment to recover,” the groups said.
- Catholic Relief Services is another major organization helping to collect relief funds for the recovery efforts.
- CARE teams are on the ground in typhoon-affected areas of the Philippines and CARE plans to provide emergency relief to thousands of families.
- ChildFund International has been on the ground in the Philippines since 1954. In addition to providing food, water and shelter for typhoon victims, the organization is also setting up counseling centers for children affected by the disaster.
- Save the Children is directing donations to help children in the Philippines, Vietnam and Laos. They’ve also said they will set aside 10 percent of all donations to create a new fund for similar future emergencies.
- Oxfam is also working on relief efforts to provide clean water, food, medicine and shelter to victims.
- Action Against Hunger is providing water, food and sanitation services. Having been on the ground in the Philippines for over a decade, the organization is also working to provide a greater damage assessment.
- Heifer is accepting donations to help residents recover from and prepare for future disasters.
- The Canadian organization GlobalMedic is working to provide clean water to Haiyan victims. “Those people are vulnerable,” GlobalMedic’s Rahul Singh told the Toronto Sun. “And clean water is essential in order to prevent a secondary catastrophe.
USA Today: “5 tips to avoid typhoon charity scams”