One Year Later, Super Typhoon's Damage Lingers
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
A year ago, a super typhoon tore through the Philippines. It was the strongest storm to make landfall in recorded history - more than 6,000 people died, 4.1 million were displaced. One of the hardest hit places was the city of Tacloban. Reporter Aurora Almendral went back to Tacloban to see how the city is recovering.
AURORA ALMENDRAL, BYLINE: At first glance, Tacloban looks like a bustling, provincial city. Outside the central market, motorcycle pedicabs rumble by. Fishermen peddle their catch and vendors sell vegetables and fried bananas on sticks. An ice cream man rings his bell as he pedals through the crowd. It's unrecognizable from the place that a year ago was buried under mountains of debris, scattered with decomposing bodies and cut off from the rest of the country with no electricity, food, water or fuel. Though the destruction is less visible, its effects are still very much present. Shev Lira is 21 years old. She was born and raised in Tacloban.
SHEV LIRA: It really changed a lot there. Yeah, it's cleaned up, but I don't think so. It's not the Tacloban that I used to live - it will never be the same like before.
ALMENDRAL: And what's missing you think?
LIRA: Maybe the presence of the people that used to live here. Their absences makes Tacloban incomplete.
ALMENDRAL: Shev lost her entire family - her mother and father, her siblings and her baby daughter to Typhoon Haiyan. They were swept away by the storm surge. Shev survived because she was working in another city. She came to Tacloban right after the storm. She climbed over rubble, wandered through the stunned crowds at evacuation centers and walked by dozens of corpses. Shev was sure she'd find them alive.
LIRA: I can't find any closure. I wasn't able to find their bodies - only my sister. But even though I was able to find my sister, I still can't accept that she's gone.
ALMENDRAL: The road to Shev's family home cuts through Tacloban's seaside shanty towns. Here the recovery is less apparent. Electricity only came back a few months ago and there are no streetlights. Some of the neighborhoods are mostly empty now, overgrown with vines and banana trees. Some of the families left behind are still in white U.N. tents, moldy from a year of being exposed to the elements. The poorest people have the hardest time bouncing back and thousands of them still rely on international aid and the Philippine government for work, shelter and food - if they can even get that. In Shev's neighborhood, a couple of workers are sorting through lumber, getting ready to rebuild a house. Only about half of the homes here are rebuilt. There's nothing left of Shev's home, but the cement floor, a few possessions and the kitchen counter. Shev hasn't rebuilt, but she hasn't abandoned it either. Shev still comes here once a month, always alone, to be in the place she used to share with her family.
When did you stop looking for your family?
LIRA: I actually didn't stop. I'm still looking for them. Like, every time I go out, I'll be, like, looking around - maybe that guy is my dad or that guy is my brother or that maybe that lady is my mom. One time, I went to, like, an orphanage - maybe one of the kids there is my daughter. You know, sometimes I can't even say that they're gone, you know, even my mom's Facebook - I even, sometimes, message my mom, tell my mom I miss her and my daughter too.
ALMENDRAL: One year later, progress here in Tacloban is still uneven. Basic functions are mostly back, but it will be a much longer time before the people truly recover. For NPR News, I'm Aurora Almendral in Tacloban, Philippines.
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