Philippine typhoon survivors celebrate Christmas: In the Philippines, survivors of the deadly Typhoon Haiyan defiantly prepared to celebrate Christmas in their devastated communities, with streets adorned with festive trees and churches filled to overflowing.
“Nothing can stop us from welcoming Christmas even though we have lost our home,” said Ellen Miano, a 63-year-old butcher’s wife, told AFP from her tiny shanty arising from a field of debris in the central city of Tacloban.
Haiyan’s 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour winds destroyed the Magallanes neighbourhood on Tacloban’s coast, and then everything that remained was swept up with giant waves on that terrifying day of November 8.
More than 5,000 of the 6,000-plus confirmed deaths were in Tacloban and nearby districts. With some 2,000 still missing, it was the country’s deadliest storm and one its worst natural disasters, say reports.
The typhoon left 4.4 million people homeless and caused $12.9 billion in damage, according to the government, which estimates it will take the affected area four years to recover, according to reports.
Miano said her family would eat a traditional Christmas dinner at midnight, with fried noodles and sliced bread given to them by a relief agency.
She now lives with her husband and four young nephews and nieces in the 2×3-meter (6×10-feet) home scrapped together from salvaged wood and sheet metal.
Ronfrey Magdua, their 20-year-old neighbor, built a 4-meter-tall monument using wood and wrapped in the Philippine flag’s red, white and blue, and put it up in the yard of a family that died in the typhoon.
“I made this in honour of the dead,” he told AFP, saying he spent about 2,000 pesos (45 dollars) of his own savings to build it.
Even now, only a few commercial areas in Tacloban have had water and electricity restored.
In the midst of the destruction, many are trying to restore some normality to their lives, rebuilding their homes out of salvaged scrap or with material purchased with money they received from aid agencies.
Other survivors huddle in white tents provided by the United Nations.
Some have received small amounts of cash from the United Nations, the Philippine government, or other aid groups.
Some 18,000 of the poorest families in Tacloban and nearby districts have received 1,300 pesos from the UN’s World Food Programme, according to spokeswoman Amor Almagro.
One woman told AFP, “When it rains hard I lie in bed, unable to sleep, worrying that a typhoon will hit us again”.
Despite the hardships, the damaged churches in Tacloban and nearby towns opened their doors early Tuesday for the last of the pre-dawn masses held in the 10 days until Christmas Eve.
“There will always be something beautiful that will come after what happened to us,” the parish priest of Palo town adjacent to Tacloban, told a congregation of some 100 at a makeshift church made from coconut lumber and blue tarpaulin.
“It (the typhoon) changed our lives, but we know that good things will follow. But of course it will take time,” he told AFP.
At the Palo parish of San Joaquin, a six-year-old child and his 27-year-old uncle attended a pre-dawn mass and afterwards lit candles in the church courtyard in front of a cluster of three small wooden crosses marking the grave of his mother and two brothers.
Over 300 other bodies are buried in the church courtyard, marked with small wooden crosses.
“It will be difficult to celebrate Christmas after we lost 15 relatives,” the uncle told AFP. Eight of them are buried in the mass graves, while seven others, including the boy’s father, are still missing.