I arrived in Manila four days after the typhoon, but I couldn’t get straight to Tacloban. I was only able to get a flight from Manila to Tacloban one week after typhoon Haiyan had hit, on 8th November 2013. I think mine was the first civil flight to Tacloban, they would only sell me a one- way ticket.
On the flight there were a few other journalist, but mainly the space was taken up by relief supplies. As we landed I could see immediately that we were right in the middle of the disaster. The airstrip in Tacloban is on a peninsula that had been washed out by the tsunami that followed the storm. Tha waves had smashed houses like toys. All around the airport were hundreds of people who had lost everithing, waiting for help or to be evacuated.
I and two other journalists where lucky to find a guy with a car who offered to help us. His house was up in the Tacloban hills and had not been destroyed. The city below had been devastated, I will never forget the stench of death. It was constant. People had been given nyoln bags to collect the remains of their dead relatives, but most were unable to get the bodies out of the collapsed houses which stood precariously over those buried beneath.
I stayed in Tacloban for four days before going on to Ormoc, on the other side of the island. There was no electricity or water and only rice, or occaissionally noodles, to eat if we were fortunate to find some. I am forever very grateful to Claro Francisco, Pablito and the all family that looked after me and put me up in their home. Without their help I could not possibly have managed. I feel privildged to have been a witness to the stregth, courage and positive attitutde of the people of Tacloban and Ormoc. After the shock of the first days they recovered a sense of reason and came together in their shared adversity to begin the massive clean up. I saw their mood changing during those days. Negativity and the unimaginable pain was overcome by the will to survive and live again.
One year on from this massive tradgedy, the people of Tacloban and Ormoc are still struggling to survive against the odds. The international relief effort that brought medecines and food and temporary shelter has now moved on yet the residents are still waiting for most of the promised global financial aid to be delivered so that they can rebuild their towns and move forward with their own lives.
Lorenzo Moscia, November 2014