The Philippines sits on a typhoon belt and is battered by super storms every year. But at 4.40am on Friday, November 8, 2013, the central island province of Leyte was hit by the most powerful storm to ever make landfall.
Super Typhoon Haiyan tore through six provinces with winds of over 320 kilometres per hour. Her fury came hours earlier than expected and dragged the sea onshore. The surging waves killed thousands of people and flattened entire towns.
Today, more than four million Filipinos are homeless and displaced in the catastrophic aftermath. Many people have left to seek sanctuary in cities like Manila and Cebu, after 80 percent of the buildings that were in the super typhoon’s path were destroyed.
With no clean water, no electricity and very little food, officials have struggled to distribute aid. And looting was widespread in the early days.
Despite the world’s attention on this storm-ravaged island, one city, Tanauan, was cut off for days. According to one national government agency and World Vision International, Tanauan was the hardest hit town by the storm. And its plight went largely unreported – 95 percent of the buildings in this coastal town were flattened.
We meet the local mayor Pel Tecson, who lost almost all of the town’s relief supplies because like the others, he did not anticipate the storm surge. Medicine and food were washed away because they were kept on the ground floor of the City Hall. The local government says it is also a victim of the calamity.
The team also filmed the City Hall as it was transformed into a casualty ward flooded with people desperate for medicine and treatment for severely infected wounds.
When the town rebuilds, the mayor wants to move entire communities away from the shoreline and review building codes. In neighbourhoods along the coast, which authorities call the danger zone, reporter Drew Ambrose hears dramatic stories of survival against the odds where entire families clung desperately to wooden planks and fridges to survive the five-metre torrent of water.
Many of them lost loved ones to Super Typhoon Haiyan with some of their family members still missing, all are struggling to survive. And just 15 minutes outside the provincial capital, residents of this city are struggling to receive aid in the aftermath of the storm.
In the initial days after the disaster, the film documents the chaos and the challenges of Typhoon Haiyan.