Saturday, November 8, 2014

Regress Report

It has been exactly a year since Typhoon Haiyan, a.k.a. Yolanda, collided with the east coast of the Philippines at the northeast corner of Leyte. The city of Tacloban - situated just to the north of the spot where, in 1944, another gargantuan invasion took place, the Leyte landings of the U.S. Marines, who were followed ashore by General Douglas MacArthur - was called the "ground zero" of the storm, and it was devastated. Witnesses described the storm surge as a veritable tsunami that invaded the land, sweeping everything ahead of it. By the time the storm had passed, dead bodies were everywhere - lying in the streets, inside their collapsed homes, and even washed out to sea. Estimates of the dead or missing in the region surpassed ten thousand, but the final number of the dead and presumed dead (their bodies never recovered) remains unknown a year later because bodies are still being recovered (or uncovered). The official figure is in excess of 6,300.

When I visited the city last April, five months after the typhoon, much of it looked as if the storm had occurred only a week before. Despite promises of aid from all over the world, the destruction of Tacloban remained stubbornly and brazenly evident. In an interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN just five days after the storm hit, Philippine President Aquino expressed skepticism about the "10,000 dead" reported by the Red Cross, stating that “there was emotional trauma involved with that particular estimate quoting both a police official and a local government official.” The Philippine Office of Civil Defense stated that they have not been given any "deadline" for announcing the official figures.

Recently, addressing students at Georgetown University, Aquino stated that his government has tried "to minimize the effects of natural disasters." Having lived through the storm and the dead calm that has settled in since, I get the feeling that Aquino was referring to the minimize button at the upper right corner of his computer screen.

(A year later, the fishing boat in the photo remains right where the typhoon deposited it.) 

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