Fieldset
In the eye of the typhoon

For a few minutes everything is calm. Imagine a sunny day and masses of air trying to find its place. The eye of Typhoon Haiyan is right here and soon the strong winds will try to devastate whatever is in their path.

For a few minutes everything is calm. Imagine a sunny day and masses of air trying to find its place. The eye of Typhoon Haiyan is right here and soon the strong winds will try to devastate whatever is in their path.

This is what some communities must have experienced in Leyte, one of the areas worst affected by the catastrophe. Manfred Murillo, an MSF logistician, has heard stories about the typhoon in his exploratory missions in the areas south of Tacloban.

A priest described to him how people packed inside his church to take refuge from the typhoon, with winds with up to 320 km/h. They would go from one side of the church to the other according to the evolution of the typhoon.

“The Filipinos were very prepared, I am surprised. In almost all the municipalities we visited, people took refuge before the typhoon landed,” he says. “In one of the towns, the only three people who died were those who refused to move to another building.”

Here they are called 'evacuation centres': big buildings where the population should go in this kind of situation. They can be churches, schools or city halls – most of the private houses are not safe. Murillo is interested in this issue. Widely known among his colleagues for his well-developed sense of humour, he gets serious while speaking about construction materials and natural disasters. We are staying in a three story house in Burauen district, south of Tacloban city. The MSF team is spending the night among candles and canned food. It is one of the few buildings in the area fit for a group of people.

“This house is perfect for typhoons, but it is a tomb in case of an earthquake,” he claims. “Why? Because it is made of concrete. On the other hand, a lot of the houses devastated by the typhoon are perfect for an earthquake, because they are light and it is OK it they fall on you.”

Both in Burauen and in other parts of the Leyte Island, the Filipinos are trying to restore their houses or build new ones. In the evenings, the rubble created by the typhoon is burnt, and black clouds (wood, garbage, vegetation) blend with the tropical heat.

MSF Philippines

Filipinos are burning the rubble caused by Typhoon Haiyan and trying to start their lives over. ©Agus Morales/MSF

It seems an Oriental rite, as if everything is on the verge of being born again. It has been repeated over and over that the inhabitants of this archipelago are used to natural disasters, but the truth is that nobody could be ready for the strength of Haiyan Typhoon. Now everyone wants to leave it behind.