Haiyan survivors still seek closure 4 years after disaster

Families of missing Filipinos petition govt to officially declare their loved ones dead
Haiyan survivors still seek closure 4 years after disaster

Environmental activists march in Manila on Nov. 8 to mark the fourth anniversary of Super Typhoon Haiyan's landfall in 2013. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)

Survivors and families of victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan said they continue to seek closure four years after the disaster hit the central Philippines killing thousands of people.

On Nov. 8, survivors in Leyte province, which bore the brunt of the deadly typhoon, marked the anniversary when it made landfall with Masses and prayers.

"The surviving families are still in pain," said Anne Bernadette Mendiola, spokeswoman of Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services Inc.

The group has filed a petition with the Public Attorney's Office seeking that those reported missing after the storm be declared dead to help their families move on.

Data obtained from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council show that more than a 1,000 people in Leyte and Samar provinces remain missing four years after Haiyan.

In Palo, Bishop Rex Ramirez of Naval led a blessing over a mass grave inside the compound of the town's cathedral where about 200 remains, many still unidentified, were buried.

Candles were lit and flowers placed on the grave as two dozen white doves were released to symbolize the "letting go of the pain and sorrow brought about by the tragedy."

At Palo cemetery where up to 2,000 mostly unidentified remains were buried, at least 1,000 people attended a Mass officiated by Archbishop John Du.

In his homily, the prelate urged Catholics to pray for those who perished in the disaster.

He said Haiyan should serve as a lesson to all to always be prepared. "We never know, just like what happened to our brothers and sisters during the typhoon," said the archbishop.

The government has called on Filipinos to unite because Haiyan was "a story of faith and hope that characterizes our people."

Lawyer Harry Roque, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman, said the government "keep[s] in mind the lessons brought by such a great tragedy."

"As we move forward, we must continue to stand united and exhibit the strong and resilient Filipino spirit as we build a better nation where there is a comfortable life for all," said Roque. 

He said a total of 10,703 resettlement houses have already been occupied by typhoon survivors.

The government's National Housing Agency, however, reported that out of the 200,000 houses needed in the aftermath of Haiyan, nearly 40 percent had been completed but only 13 percent were occupied as of October.

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The agency reported that there are 78,291 completed houses. However, only 26,256 of them have families living in them.

Haiyan, which packed 300km/h winds and caused a 7.5m storm surge, killed at least 6,329 people and displaced millions when it made landfall in the central Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013.

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