Climate migration: Filipino families flee amid typhoons

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TACLOBAN, Philippines — After the towering waves of Typhoon Haiyan flattened dozens of Filipino villages, Jeremy Garing spent days helping recover from the historic storm that left more than 7,300 people dead or missing and inflicted billions of dollars of damage.

“I keep helping others, but in the end you find out your whole family is gone,” Garing said, recalling those terrible times in 2013. “It’s so painful.”

He and his wife Hyancinth Charm Garing lost seven loved ones in the typhoon, including parents, siblings and their one-year-old daughter. Holding a cellphone photo of her smiling daughter Hywin, the 28-year-old mum still finds it hard to believe she’s gone.

Part of the wave of 5 million people displaced by the typhoon, the couple now live in an inland community about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the coast in a community that was created by the government in response to the death and devastation of Haiyan.

Days after the powerful typhoon, officials knew rebuilding was not an option because the historic storm would not be the last. They announced a $3.79 billion reconstruction plan that included housing for tens of thousands of storm survivors. They also announced plans to build a seawall to protect 33,000 residents from future storms and a 40-meter (130-foot) buffer zone from the shoreline where development is prohibited.

“It’s safe from flooding. It is sheltered from the active fault line and it is away from the coastal zone,” said Tacloban Housing and Community Development Manager Tedence Jopson, referring to the new community named Tacloban North.

“Remember that because we’re talking about climate change, our priority is really getting people out of the danger zone,” he said, adding that the island nation is experiencing more frequent typhoons.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series exploring the lives of people around the world who have been forced to move due to rising seas, drought, scorching temperatures and more. caused or exacerbated by climate change.

Rebuilding after the typhoon was a colossal undertaking for an impoverished country that has seen more than its share of disasters. When the typhoon hit, the country was still recovering from a recent earthquake that hit a nearby island and a Muslim rebel attack that razed homes.

For months, families lived in tents or homemade shacks as the government struggled to build housing. But over time, authorities have built homes for up to 16,000 families in several locations, including the community of Tacloban North. Nestled in what was once a wooded valley, the neat brick-roofed houses are beloved by storm survivors.

But many people still yearn for their old lives and mourn the loss of loved ones.

Some keep photos of dead relatives on their phones and are forced to walk past a mass grave with rows of white crosses. A sign at the entrance reads in memory of the “men, women and children who perished and those who are still missing and…the countless people whose lives have been changed forever”.

“Every Friday I visit the cemetery to light a candle for my wife and don’t forget to pray to the Lord to help us with our daily chores,” said Reinfredo Celis, whose wife and brother died in the typhoon that hit it. birthday. “What is painful is that I am now alone.”

be forced by climate change moving, within or across borders, is a growing reality that is expected to accelerate in the decades to come. Over the next 30 years, 143 million people are at risk of being uprooted by rising seas, drought, extreme temperatures and other climate disasters, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published earlier this year by the United Nations.

Although an individual storm cannot be attributed to climate change, studies have shown that typhoons get stronger and wetter. In its 2021 Asia Climate Report released on Monday, the World Meteorological Organization concluded that economic losses from droughts, floods and landslides have increased sharply in Asia. According to the UN agency, climate and water-related disasters have affected 50 million people and caused $35.6 billion in damage.

“Extreme weather, climate and water conditions are becoming more frequent and intense in many parts of the world due to climate change,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “We have more water vapor in the atmosphere, leading to extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. The warming ocean is fueling more powerful tropical storms and rising sea levels are increasing the impacts.

In the coastal villages hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Super Typhoon Yolanda, the damage is still visible – damaged houses with collapsed roofs and walls, foundations of others with only toilets remaining . The government decided to demolish many of the remaining houses, although a few residents refused to move.

A beached cargo ship has become a popular tourist attraction. But Emelita Abillille, a fish seller from Anibong village with her husband and five children, said she cried every time she saw the vessel.

While she would like to leave the disaster area, she worries that she will not be able to earn a living in North Tacloban, which has few shops and few jobs.

“We are ready to move there,” said Abillille, whose family has been offered a home in the new community. “Our problem is where will we get money for our food? We have to buy water, food and our means of transport there. Where will I find the money? »

Jeremy Garing, too, has frustrations with the new community. The 35-year-old hairdresser has to make the expensive daily commute to work in Tacloban, although he has bought a motorbike to make it easier.

The consolation is that he knows his family – including a newborn daughter – will be there when he gets home.

“I really like it here. We won’t move. It’s better here,” Garing said, looking at his sleeping daughter Chiara Mae. “It’s certain.”

Casey reported from Boston.

Follow Michael Casey on Twitter: @mcasey1

The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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