Sunday, 8 November 2015

Philippines marks second anniversary of devastating Typhoon Haiyan

The Philippines Sunday marked the second anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan - with the bodies of possible victims of the disaster which left at least 7,350 people dead or missing still being uncovered.

Thousands of residents marked the two-year milestone in the city of Tacloban, which was devastated by the huge storm, as memorials were unveiled and masses held.

On Saturday authorities confirmed they found six new bodies.

The unidentified skeletal remains were found by a man scavenging for wood in the outskirts of the city, according to Tacloban fire chief Charlie Herson.

"These are possible victims of the typhoon. They were buried by debris, in piles of wood," he told AFP.

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit land, smashed into the central Philippines on November 8, 2013. The once-thriving city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte suffered the worst damage with hundreds of houses washed away by a storm surge.

To mark the tragedy Sunday, special memorials were unveiled and Roman Catholic masses were said for the victims, including the more than 2,400 mostly-unidentified bodies buried in a mass grave in Tacloban.

Thousands of Tacloban residents are still living in makeshift temporary homes as questions are raised about the speed of reconstruction.

President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda said there would "always be discussions" on the speed of reconstruction, adding: "We understand such sentiments."

But he added despite local critics, foreign agencies, including the United Nations, had said the Philippines was rebuilding faster than other developing countries struck by comparable natural disasters.

"What befell us was massive and we are continuing to provide assistance... always following our principle, to build back better," he said.

However, local congressman, Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, said "this is still not yet the old Tacloban. This is still not the old Leyte. It will still be a long time before things get back to normal."

Some Tacloban residents are still clinging to hope their missing loved ones are still alive.

Single mother Angelina Marquez, 17, said she hoped Remegildo, the father of her child, would reappear two years after he went missing during the storm.

"I still believe that he may have been washed away to a different place and the time will come, like in the movies, when he will come back to me," she said.

Sunday 8 November 2015

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Death toll in Lahore factory tragedy jumps to 49

More bodies of the victims of the Sundar Industrial Factory tragedy were recovered on Saturday, raising the death toll to 49.

Rescuers are of the view that there are still chances of survival of the victims. A worker trapped under the debris has contacted his family by phone.

Relatives of the victims are praying for the safety of their loved ones. Rescue activities using heavy machinery have been expedited.

The body of the owner has also been recovered.

Rescue officials said over a hundred survivors had so far been pulled from the wreckage of the four-storey Rajput Polyester factory which manufactured polythene shopping bags.

No part of the four-storey building remained standing after the disaster, leaving dozens of workers trapped under the debris.

It was unclear how many people were in the building when it collapsed or how many were still trapped.

Soldiers and rescuers were preparing to clear the rubble in front of the factory and move towards the rear of the building where they fear they will discover more victims.

Injured survivors said the factory’s owner, who was adding a new floor to the building, had ignored an advice from his contractor and pleas from his workers to stop construction after cracks appeared in the walls following a powerful earthquake last week.

A spokesman for Rescue 1122 told the media that of the 167 people trapped in the building, 109 had been rescued. Most of them had minor injuries.

Meanwhile, an 18-year-old youth, Shahid, was recovered alive from the debris of the factory after 51 hours of the tragedy on Friday evening.

The Lahore DCO, Captain (Retd.) Usman, said that rescue teams had recovered Shahid.

“We were looking for life, and it has been proved that we have found a life,” he said.

Sunday 08 November 2015

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Typhhon Yolanda:6 more bodies dug up 2 years later

Six remains have been recovered under the debris two years after Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ devastated the province of Leyte.

Mayor Alfred Romualdez said firewood gatherers found the bodies behind the San Jose National High School in Barangay 87 in this city’s San Jose district.

Only three of the remains have their skulls intact and one of them is believed to be a child because of the size of its skull.

“Running priest’ Robert Reyes and another priest blessed the bodies that could no longer be identified because only the skull and skeletons had remained of the victims who were believed to have been washed away by the storm surge during the Yolanda onslaught.

“Every now and then, we find bodies in the swampy areas,” the mayor said.

The congressman said bodies will continue to be found two years after the calamity.

Barangay Chairman Leo Bahin of Barangay 87 San Jose confirmed that the remains were indeed recovered at the back of San Jose National High School.

“Yung lima kanina (Saturday) lang nakita, yung isa two days ago pa nakita ng mga mangangahoy,” Bahin said.

According to Bahin, since 2013, there are incidents were firewood gatherers recovered bones and other body parts but this is the first time that they saw skulls.

Two of them were suspected to be woman because they still had their underwear and bra.

The remains were laid at the barangay hall awaiting for representatives of Bureau of Fire, who were tasked to make proper identification of the victims.

“Sa ngayon wala pang mag claim, mahirap naman ito ma identify kasi dalawang taon na silang nakabaon sa debris at buto na lang. Turn-over na lang namin, bahala na ang Bureau of Fire na mag identify,” Bahin said.

It was in San Jose where there were several casualties of Typhoon Yolanda were recorded.

“We still feel the pain. Nararamdaman pa rin namin ang lungkot na dulot ng Typhoon Yolanda,” Rep. Romualdez said.

The senatorial candidate of Lakas-CMD said the local government here continues to provide assistance to the survivors.

“We will see how we can help in identifying them, para maibigay sa kanilang pamilya at mabigyan ng disenteng libing,” the congressman added.

Meanwhile, a typhoon survivor-turned-author said that the victims still could not contain the surge of emotion two years after Yolanda (international name, Haiyan) hit the province.

“We are still healing and it will take a long time to process that but let that not waste away what we have worked so hard in rebuilding back our lives,” said Albert Mulles, a storm survivor from Tacloban City.

Out of his struggles to survive and immortalize the terrible experience he and his family had experienced, Mulles published a book entitled ‘‘Haiyan: Untold Story: A Story of Hope and Survival”.

The book’s launching came about as the province remembered the second anniversary of Yolanda, the world’s worst storm to hit land, survivors and their supporters around the country trooped to the city to pay tribute to the dead, whose numbers have reached over 7,500 mostly in Tacloban and nearby towns, according to government’s estimate.

“For us, it is important to remember—not only the most disastrous and fiercest supertyphoon in the world—but the courage and determination of people at the ground zero rising up forming the broadest survivor network and holding our government and world leaders accountable,” said Efleda Bautista, convenor of People Surge, a broad coalition of storm survivors in central Philippines.

“The stronger the rain poured the louder were the people’s chant. People Surge pushed through the march despite strong rain…Everyone was soaked in the rain but hearts filled with warmth and determination,” she added, as they welcomed thousands of fellow survivors from various parts of Leyte, Samar, and outside Eastern Visayas who marched to the city on Saturday.

Aside from holding a vigil to remember those who died, the group also led a protest marched dubbed as “Global Day of Rage against Neglect and Impunity” to what they said as government’s “criminal negligence” and “snail-paced rehabilitation” in Yolanda-hit communities, nothing that thousands of families are still in bunkhouses and temporary shelters two years after the storm.

They also assailed the government for its lack of transparency in spending the billions of donations and funds for the survivors.

“Watching the news on TV about how the government still does not reveal the real Yolanda casualty count even after two years, brings back painful memories... And confirms a lot about those in power. Well, for one, they still want to be in control of all those donations, and second, it will only prove how poor our disaster preparedness and handling are,” said Aaron Almadro, 32, a survivor in Palo, Leyte, expressing his frustration on the social media.

“We lost more than 20,000 loved ones, twenty thousand people, including both my parents and a lot of friends! Why can’t they say the numbers? They’re all busy campaigning for next year’s elections but they aren’t even finished with the rehabilitation and assistance. Yolanda happened, government. We will never forget. So, government, whatever you say, whatever you try to do, is already two years late,” he added.

Meanwhile, Fr. Amadeo Alvero of the Palo Archdiocese in Leyte, said that there are also enough reasons to thank for during this year’s commemorative event.

“Without them it would have been difficult for us to bring our life back to where we are now. But with them our life after Yolanda is getting better. Thanks to all who have helped us and brought us hope. Their sacrifices and love will always be remembered. I thank God for all of them,” he added.

“We in the Church gratefully recognize the role played by private charities, of international and national non-government organizations for the people’s recovery and healing. These organizations have been a vital source of relief and comfort,” also said Msgr. Ramon B. Aguilos of Palo Archdiocese.

Reflecting on the Yolanda tragedy, Aguilos wrote that: “Among the ‘blessings in the disguise’ that transpired is the opening of new links, partnership and relationships with development institutions.”

On January 17 this year, no less than Pope Francis visited Tacloban and Palo to bring comfort to pray for the victims and comfort to the survivors.

While many humanitarian organizations also came to revive the city immediately after the storm. “To date, PRC’s Haiyan Recovery program has built 66,011

homes out of the target 80,203 or 86 percent of the target number of houses to be built, amounting to around 2.2 billion pesos. The Red Cross Haiyan shelter program is spread across nine Haiyan-affected provinces: Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Cebu, Eastern Samar, Iloilo, Leyte, Palawan, and Western Samar,” said Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon.

In a statement, PRC said that “as of end of October, 884,228 people have benefitted from PRC’s Haiyan Recovery Program which includes services ranging from shelter, livelihood, cash relief assistance, water and sanitation, hygiene promotion, and rehabilitation of classrooms.”

“To the people of Tacloban, I am humbled to be called your mayor and honored to have been given a chance to serve a people who have shown to the entire Philippines and the entire world their admirable strength and resistance in the face of individual tragedies, their quiet courage to carry on despite their losses; their firm determination to make Tacloban a better City after the deluge.

“It is our vision to make Tacloban a livable city where every Taclobanon can sleep soundly in the safety and comfort of a humane shelter and live a decent quality life to live up to its potential of infinite possibilities for progress and growth.

“In the silence of our hearts, may that day be marked for posterity--never to be forgotten―never to be erased.

“May all who come this way remember―that on this piece of earth―the whole world converged to make Tacloban the template of a people’s firm resolve to rise above their sorrow and create the new landscape of their future. May God forever bless our bellowed city,” Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said in his commemorative message this year.

This followed as the local government has lined up various commemorative activities on Saturday, starting from the a holy mass in the coastal district of Anibong in the city, followed by the reading of dedication and unveiling of a memorial marker, a “Concert of Hope” by Philippine Madrigal Singer and Power Dance from Manila, and premier showing of documentary film “Fields of Hope.”

On Sunday, November 8, locals joined a commemorative walk around the city, followed by the holy Mass by Palo Archbishop John Du, ringing of church bells, siren blast and the sounding of the storm, and unveiling of another marker located in the Tacloban Astrodome Center.

Sunday 8 November 2015

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