Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, the Philippines

Feature story by Kasper Nybo Photography.

 

In spite of Haiyan being the 30th typhoon of the season to hit the Philippines, no one was prepared for the forces that transformed the province of leyte from a tropical paradise into an apocalyptic landscape of destruction, rubble and death.

This is the story and images from the battlefield Haiyan/Yolanda left behind. From endless fields of broken palm trees, from villages transformed into piles of rubble, families, individuals and children are returning to ground zero – or what used to be called home. Some return to rebuild, some search for belongings or loved ones buried under the rubble. Often the search continues in a smell of decay under the burning sun and high humidity, bringing the public health situation at risk.

Village of Tolosa, Leyte Province, Philippines. The second site where Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) made landfall. With sustained wind speeds of 250 km/t vast areas of coconut farming were destroyed leaving an apocalyptic wasteland behind.

Village of Tolosa, Leyte Province, Philippines. The second site where Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) made landfall. With sustained wind speeds of 250 km/t vast areas of coconut farming were destroyed leaving an apocalyptic wasteland behind.

Leyte Province. With water from a broken pipe, three girls are washing themselves in the early morning light before the scorching heat sets in.

Leyte Province. With water from a broken pipe, three girls are washing themselves in the early morning light before the scorching heat sets in.

Tacloban City. Motorcycle taxis heading out of town pass by a line of newly recovered bodies by the roadside.

Tacloban City. Motorcycle taxis heading out of town pass by a line of newly recovered bodies by the roadside.

Village of Dulag. An elderly woman sitting in what used to be her living room. Tears are running down her face as she worries for her future and declining health.

Village of Dulag. An elderly woman sitting in what used to be her living room. Tears are running down her face as she worries for her future and declining health.

Tacloban City. A grieving woman grasping the doll she believes to be her child. The storm surge ripped her real child from her arms as she tried to protect her.

Tacloban City. A grieving woman grasping the doll she believes to be her child. The storm surge ripped her real child from her arms as she tried to protect her.

Village of Dulag. A family of coconut farmers now living with their salvaged belongings in a makeshift shelter, while they are clearing the land of their house and start rebuilding.

Village of Dulag. A family of coconut farmers now living with their salvaged belongings in a makeshift shelter, while they are clearing the land of their house and start rebuilding.

Tacloban City. A group of young boys hang out in the shade of a makeshift barbershop.

Tacloban City. A group of young boys hang out in the shade of a makeshift barbershop.

Village of Dulag. In a surreal scene, a goat rests in the shade of a giant playground oyster in a public park covered in rubble and broken trees.

Village of Dulag. In a surreal scene, a goat rests in the shade of a giant playground oyster in a public park covered in rubble and broken trees.

Tacloban City. A girl playing in the rubble next to a gigantic cargo ship washed ashore by the storm surge. Under the ship bodies are buried, but locals are unable to dig them out without big machines.

Tacloban City. A girl playing in the rubble next to a gigantic cargo ship washed ashore by the storm surge. Under the ship bodies are buried, but locals are unable to dig them out without big machines.

Tacloban City. While providing shade for the burning sun, the many makeshift shelters in the city provide little protection against daily rain bursts, let alone any further storms to come.

Tacloban City. While providing shade for the burning sun, the many makeshift shelters in the city provide little protection against daily rain bursts, let alone any further storms to come.

Tacloban City. A team of young men carry out the remains of a boat, piece by piece. The propeller is raised as the last and triumphant piece, before the team rush off on an open pickup truck.

Tacloban City. A team of young men carry out the remains of a boat, piece by piece. The propeller is raised as the last and triumphant piece, before the team rush off on an open pickup truck.

Village of Dulag. The prisoners of a small community jail survived with the advantage of being in a strong building. As the village around them was blown away, they only suffered small water damage in the roof.

Village of Dulag. The prisoners of a small community jail survived with the advantage of being in a strong building. As the village around them was blown away, they only suffered small water damage in the roof.

Village of Dulag. A boy is carried into the emergency room with a badly cut hand, where a team of American doctors stitch him up. By nothing short of a miracle he has avoided permanent damage to the critical nerves of the hand.

Village of Dulag. A boy is carried into the emergency room with a badly cut hand, where a team of American doctors stitch him up. By nothing short of a miracle he has avoided permanent damage to the critical nerves of the hand.

Leyte Province. The sun is breaking through the smoke from many fires along the coastal road. Fires serve as the most efficient way to get through the rubble and provide safety in the dark nights without electricity.

Leyte Province. The sun is breaking through the smoke from many fires along the coastal road. Fires serve as the most efficient way to get through the rubble and provide safety in the dark nights without electricity.

A different kind of storm

Several days prior to the November 8th landfall of super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, meteorologists across the region started monitoring a large low-pressure area, and soon after, sending out warnings of a storm that continued to grow in strength and size. Little did they know that they were looking straight in the face of a storm that would be historic by all measures a few days later.

With Hayian being the 30th typhoon in the 2013 typhoon season, Philippine authorities are no strangers to storm warnings and evacuation plans. Quickly, some 800,000 people were moved to secure evacuation shelters as the storm approached. When Haiyan crushed ashore on the easternmost islands of the Philippines the brick-and-mortar structures of evacuation were however no match for what is now recorded as the strongest storm ever at landfall.

The jet-force winds tore entire villages, cities and farmlands apart, killing thousands. With the storm, came also an unanticipated – and massively forceful – storm-surge, sweeping some 6 meters high through the streets of Tacloban, the capital of the Leyte province. All risks had been highly underestimated and many perished in shelters and at home. Haiyan was by no means “just another storm”.

Now, the humanitarian situation in the areas devastated by Haiyan on November 8th is catastrophic – and remains so, even if the disaster has slipped out of general news headlines. Over 14 million people are affected, including some five million children. More than 3 million men, women and children have been displaced, many desperate for food, safe drinking water, basic shelter and sanitation.

Mosquito fight!

Large scale vaccination programs are scrambling to keep epidemics at hand, rolled out by a large network of local and international organisations, community by community being slowly but steadily covered. Amidst the programs of vitamin and tetanus shots, there is however a growing concern of a possible larger scale outbreak of Denke virus – the large amounts of unclean still standing water, the lack of mosquito nets and the masses of people living without sufficient shelter and sanitation, all creating perfect conditions for the growth of the mosquitos carrying the disease. Doctors from all over the world are fighting this next battle trying to reach out to the most remote areas with medical attention.

Beaten, not broken.

In a paradox the Philippine people stand in the middle of massive relief efforts, but with a strong desire to rebuild – seemingly almost as strong as the search for food and water. Scenes of injured people trying to recover nails and building materials are growing every day.When asking people on the street how they’re doing, it’s the same story over and over again, as they reply:

We’re not ok! We lost everything, it’s back to zero”. Then they’ll pause for a short moment, before their face lights up and they conclude “But we’re still alive!
 
 

Images and words by Kasper Nybo Photography. We work in the no-man’s land between narrative observation and visual storytelling, capturing authenticity and creating no-nonsense visual communication. We believe in the power of originality and honest stories across our line of work in editorial, commercial, artistic and humanitarian photography. Get in touch and let us know how we can help you deliver stronger stories! For bookings or questions click above. If you want to read more about us, click right here.