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Typhoon Haiyan-hit areas slowly getting back to normal

Six months after typhoon Haiyan hit parts of the Philippines, businesses and workers are coming back

Gulf News

Manila: Six months after typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the central Philippines, life is slowly returning to normal.

“Conditions in Eastern Visayas are beginning to normalise,” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said on Wednesday.

Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record, slammed the Visayas on November 8 last year, bringing in winds and heavy rainfall that has not been experienced by the islands since the last century.

Powerful 230-kilometre winds ripped off roofs from houses and buildings and spurred storm surges that inundated coastal areas. Large areas of the islands of Leyte, Samar, Panay, Cebu, parts of Negros, as well as Palawan were affected and more than 6,200 lives were lost, the majority in Tacloban City.

“With the help of the government, other states, nongovernment and international organisations, the affected areas are getting back their footing,” Soliman said.

The government has so far released P1.4 billion (Dh115 million) for the rehabilitation of the affected areas in Eastern Visayas, she said in a palace press briefing.

Of the amount, P467.3 million (Dh38 million) came from the government’s calamity fund, P764 million (Dh63 million) from cash donations and P131.3 million (Dh10 million) through an Asian Development Bank grant.

She said the fund has been used for shelter, the cash-for-work programme, the provision of pedal rickshaws and motorised fishing boats and livelihood assistance among other things.

During the first few months after Haiyan, which is known in the Philippines as typhoon “Yolanda,” large areas of the island provinces are without electricity and communications to the outside world.

Speaking to Gulf News from Tacloban City, Dr Auxilladora Abanilla of the Divine Word Hospital said the situation in the affected areas was improving, although commercial activities were still far from what they were before Haiyan.

“Most of the businesses are back,” she said, adding however that some of the establishments have changed owners.

“Commercial activity in Tacloban City used to be dominated by locals and ethnic Chinese businessmen, now, probably because of the losses some of the owners have sustained, they were forced by circumstances to sell their businesses to Taiwanese businessmen and Maranaos from Mindanao,” she said.

“For one thing, many of the stores are reluctant to return fearing that another powerful typhoon will wipe out their businesses,” she said.

She said that at the Divine Word Hospital and other medical institutions, activities were not yet normal although services had returned to previous levels.

She said some medical professionals had left the Visayas to find employment abroad after the typhoon.

“Some of the medical technologists have decided to work elsewhere, mostly out of the country, where the better pay they would be receiving there would enable them to recover whatever they have lost. But the good thing is, other than the medical technologists, the doctors who had gone elsewhere after the typhoon, have now returned,” she said.

“It will take time, maybe even less than the estimated ten years, but what is important now is that the people have realised the value of working together towards normalcy,” she said.