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Slog begins to rebuild Philippines` typhoon wastelands

AFP | Last Updated: Sunday, November 24, 2013 - 11:27

Manila: A frantic campaign to reach millions of hungry, injured and homeless people in the Philippines following one of the world`s strongest storms is almost over. Now the grinding slog of rebuilding begins.

Experts say it will cost billions of dollars and take years to revive communities that were destroyed when Super Typhoon Haiyan swept in from the Pacific Ocean more than a fortnight ago, killing at least 5,200 people.

At 315 kilometres an hour, Haiyan`s winds were the most powerful ever recorded to make landfall. Tsunami-like storm surges that crashed hundreds of metres inland were even more devastating, wiping out entire towns.

Ensuring those who survived the storm did not perish in its immediate aftermath has been the top priority, with the main focus on the eastern islands of Leyte and Samar that were already among the poorest in the developing country.

The armed forces of more than a dozen countries joined a giant international relief effort, which continues to rush food, water and medicines and other emergency supplies to millions of people in isolated wastelands.

With aid flowing in more easily, the Philippine government, its international partners and the survivors themselves are starting to address the overwhelming task of rebuilding so many shattered communities.

"When you have these kind of problems that are so large, everybody is actually apprehensive," said Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, the former governor of Leyte, who has been appointed head of the government`s reconstruction taskforce.

There is no official estimate for the recovery and rehabilitation cost, but Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan has suggested it could be as high as $5.8 billion.

One of the most immediate priorities in the rehabilitation effort is rebuilding or repairing homes for the 4.3 million displaced people.

More than 536,000 homes were completely destroyed, with another 500,000 damaged, according to the government.

Re-establishing a means of employment is an equally urgent task, with five million workers having lost their livelihoods, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Before the storm, most of the four million people living on Samar and Leyte endured near-subsistence lifestyles focused on rice and coconut farming, or fishing.

ILO country director Lawrence Jeff Johnson said the immediate focus on the employment front was to provide emergency jobs such as working on the clean-up operation.

In the long-run, Johnson said the reconstruction effort should not be about restoring fragile livelihoods, "but about taking the opportunity to help reduce poverty".

First Published: Sunday, November 24, 2013 - 11:27

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