Hard-hit young people step up their fight against climate change

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SINGAPORE — For several hours on December 16, 2021, in the Philippine town of Surigao, a small bathroom was all that stood between 15 people and Super Typhoon Rai.

Ms. Karlette Vasquez, 19, and 14 of her relatives and neighbors had crammed in there, because it was the only part of the house that still had a shelter.

This was after most of the roof and walls of the wooden and concrete house were torn off by the typhoon, which wreaked havoc on the area after making landfall in the town earlier in the day.

Ms Vasquez said as the typhoon roared and the winds howled, her 49-year-old aunt threw up in fear as her 13-year-old cousin sobbed as she clung tightly to her.

She recalls: “I couldn’t see anything during the typhoon – the surroundings were just like white paper.”

It wasn’t until Rai passed the area that she saw the extent of the damage around their nearly flattened house.

“It was horrible. Because we lived in a small high house, I saw everything the typhoon devastated.

Surigao City is the capital of Surigao del Norte Province in the Philippines, which was ground zero for Super Typhoon Rai.

This is unlikely to be Ms. Vasquez’s last super typhoon ordeal.

Warming oceans caused by climate change are fueling more intense and catastrophic tropical storms – and the Philippines already knows on average 20 tropical storms per year.

“I don’t think there is a way to avoid future disasters like typhoons. It’s scary, but we have to do our part to delay Earth’s apocalypse,” Ms. Vasquez said.

Hundreds of thousands of young people in Asia-Pacific are grappling with the devastating effects of the climate crisis – and some of them are taking the reins of change.

They ask for more help to deal with the health impacts of these disasters, which sometimes receive less attention than the loss of homes and livelihoods.

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