Sunday, January 5, 2014

After typhoon, Philippines faces one of the most profound resettlement crises in decades

Chico Harlan in the Washington Post: The typhoon that recently barreled through the Philippines has left in its wake one of the most profound resettlement crises in decades, with the number of newly homeless far exceeding the capacity of aid groups and the government to respond.

Two months after one of the strongest typhoons on record, recovery in the central Philippines has been marked by a desperate scramble for shelter, as people return to the same areas that were ravaged and construct weaker, leakier and sometimes rotting versions of their old homes.

That urgent but crude attempt to rebuild has raised the prospect that the storm-prone areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan will emerge more vulnerable to future disasters. The self-made reconstruction effort also reflects the enormity of the damage. November’s catastrophe displaced more than 4 million people — twice the number of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami or the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Left largely to fend for themselves, people are living in or under whatever remains. They inhabit boats or freight containers flung ashore by the tsunami-like storm surge. They patch up near-destroyed homes with storm flotsam: twisted metal, plastic sheets and ripped mattresses. If the initial storm was a global media event, its precarious aftermath is the opposite, taking place long after the cable news teams have decamped and attention has faded.

For those who lose homes in a disaster, there’s almost never a quick solution, aid workers say. The Katrina-hit Gulf Coast had its infamous FEMA trailers. Port-au-Prince had its squalid tent cities. Northeastern Japan had its cramped evacuation centers — mostly schools and civic centers — the last of which closed only last month, almost three years after a tsunami and a series of nuclear meltdowns.

What’s noteworthy in the Philippines, though, is not where people are resettling, but rather the degree to which they are staying put. Across the disaster zone, some 90 percent are still living in the same plot they were occupying before the typhoon....

Philippine villagers sit outside of their home in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. US Department of Defense photo

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