Tag Archives: disaster

Post Earthquake Spirit in Morelos

After covering the earthquake damage in various zones of Mexico City, it became clear that the hardest hit areas were some rural towns closer to the epicentre of the quake where buildings were often made from adobe instead of concrete and rebar. Morelos, a state to the south of the capital, had reported multiple towns in critical condition, along with an unknown but growing number of casualties.

From the viewpoint of a videographer it was clear that we needed to go to Morelos, so a reporter from The New York Times requisitioned a car and we made the three hour drive to Jojutla.

As soon as we hit the town’s periphery it was obvious that the situation was critical. Roadblocks had been set up two kilometres away from the city centre to stop necessary traffic entering the damaged parts of the town and our vehicle was not allowed to pass. Only by hitching a ride with some locals in their beat up minivan could we get into the city, and for the rest of the day and into the night we tried to get a sense of the damage.

A local official estimated that 60% of the buildings had been damaged in some way, and many of them would never be fit to live in again. We met families picking their things from under the crumbled remains of their living room wall and others who had lost parents in the collapse. Entire street corners had fallen, bringing down as many as six homes at once. The devastation was massive, and the resources few.

But throughout it all the general spirit of the people seemed to be one of defiance and determination. “We will get through this,” was a phrase I heard more than once, and defined the mood of the day. Even though many of them had lost everything and the only home they’d ever known, they were already looking ahead to the rebuilding process.

“We are Mexico.”

Posted in Blog, Central America, Disaster, Mexico, Video Also tagged , , , , , |

Documenting the Mexico City Earthquake

When I saw the news that Mexico City and the surrounding states had been struck by a powerful earthquake on September 19th, 2017, I was in JFK airport returning from a few weeks of meetings and visiting friends. In those first hours it wasn’t clear what the extent of the damage was, and so the plane took off for Mexico after only a short delay. It was when we landed, however, and the pilot announced we were stuck behind a backlogged queue of nearly 40 other planes, that I realized that maybe the situation was worse that I had thought.

The videographer/filmmaker part of my brain told me to immediately send emails to my contacts in the media, and luckily was able to connect with The New York Times. By the time I got out of the airport and through the gridlocked city it was nearly 3 am, so I closed my eyes for a few hours and prepared to get up with the sun.

I was planning to go and investigate the site of a collapsed school in the south of Mexico City, but no sooner had I jumped in a car with a few colleagues did we realize there was an incredible drama unfolding just two blocks from my apartment.

This kicked off more than a week of frantic coverage in a city that I have come to call home. Documenting a crisis in my own backyard, albeit an adopted one, was a new and difficult experience, but ultimately for me the earthquake was a narrative of selflessness and community spirit rather than of despair.

Volunteers poured into the streets in the thousands, and ordinary citizens opened their doors to help in rescue efforts. While the event was a horrific tragedy for Mexico City, the solidarity and social awareness displayed by the people who live here was inspiring to say the least. If such collective spirit could be put towards reforming other sectors of the nation, Mexico would be an even better place to live in no time.

 

Posted in Blog, Central America, Disaster, Mexico, Video Also tagged , , , , , |

No Build Zone: Life in Tacloban After Typhoon Haiyan

When typhoon Haiyan, referred to locally as Yolanda, smashed into the central Philippines on November 8th, 2013, it was the most severe storm ever recorded to make landfall. In the end Yolanda claimed more than six thousand lives, devastated infrastructure, rendered tens of thousands homeless, and its aftermath instigated widespread looting and chaos. Tacloban, one of the cities hardest hit, was largely underprepared for the scale of the destruction, and nearly six months later its residents are still struggling to rebuild their lives.

Further complicating the recovery process is a government imposed “no build zone” that extends forty metres inland from the ocean, meaning that residents of some coastal neighbourhoods who have rebuilt their homes are now technically illegal squatters, possibly facing eviction and renewed homelessness in the future. With some estimates placing the clean up efforts at less than ten percent complete,  the residents of Tacloban face a long road to recovery.

This story documents daily life in Tacloban, largely focusing on Barangay 68, a community so badly damaged that residents now call it Yolanda Village.

Barangay 68, often referred to as Yolonda Village by locals, was one of the hardest hit by typhoon Haiyan. After Haiyan devastated the area, the government imposed a "no build zone" policy from the waters edge to 40 metres inland, meaning that those who have rebuilt their homes near the ocean face a possible eviction in the future.

Barangay 68, often referred to as Yolanda Village by locals, was one of the hardest hit by typhoon Haiyan. After Haiyan devastated the area, the government imposed a “no build zone” policy from the waters edge to 40 metres inland, meaning that those who have rebuilt their homes near the ocean face a possible eviction in the future.

Young men play basketball in front of a  beached cargo ship. Several large ships are awaiting removal after being swept onto land during typhoon Haiyan. Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, leaving more than 5000 dead and displacing nearly 2 million people homeless.

Tacloban, Philippines. Young men play basketball in front of a beached cargo ship. Several large ships are awaiting removal after being swept onto land during typhoon Haiyan.

A man inspects the remains of a friend's home. Typhoon Haiyan damaged many homes to the point that they became uninhabitable and have been left in disrepair. Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, leaving more than 5000 dead and displacing nearly 2 million people homeless.

A man inspects the remains of a friend’s home. Typhoon Haiyan damaged many homes to the point that they became uninhabitable and have been left in disrepair.

A carpenter rebuilds a destroyed home for his friends uncle just outside the government imposed "no build zone".

A carpenter rebuilds a destroyed home for his friend’s uncle just outside the government imposed “no build zone”.

The interior of the Palo cathedral outside Tacloban. The roof of the building was blown off during typhoon Haiyan and has yet to be repaired fully. Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, leaving more than 5000 dead and displacing nearly 2 million people homeless.

The interior of the Palo cathedral outside Tacloban. The roof of the building was blown off during typhoon Haiyan and has yet to be repaired fully.

Girls play in the remains of a building that was destroyed during typhoon Haiyan.

Girls play in the remains of a building that was destroyed during typhoon Haiyan.

A woman clears debris from her front yard in Yolonda Village. Nearly six months after typhoon Haiyan devastated the area, the hardest hit coastal neighbourhoods are still far from rebuilt.

A woman clears debris from her front yard in Yolonda Village. Nearly six months after typhoon Haiyan devastated the area, the hardest hit coastal neighbourhoods are still far from rebuilt.

A group of men drink brandy and wine on the beach during a day off.

A group of men drink brandy and wine on the beach during a day off.

A young family are seen in the window of their tin house.

A young family are seen in the window of their tin house.

A man walks along an improvised breakwater made of hardened cement bags.

A man walks along an improvised breakwater made of hardened cement bags.

Salvagers work to cut apart a cargo shipping container that washed up along the breakwater in Yolonda Village. Other containers can be found as far insland as 100 meters.

Salvagers work to cut apart a cargo shipping container that washed up along the breakwater in Yolanda Village. Other containers can be found as far insland as 100 meters.

Many residents of Yolonda Village remain without electricity nearly six months after typhoon Haiyan made landfall, and rely on rechargable LED lights to see at night.

Many residents of Yolanda Village remain without electricity nearly six months after typhoon Haiyan made landfall, and rely on rechargable LED lights to see at night.

A man salvages wood from a wrecked house frame to use in the reconstruction of his own house.

A man salvages wood from a wrecked house frame to use in the reconstruction of his own house.

A group of young men relax on a wooden fishing pier over the easter weekend.

A group of young men relax on a wooden fishing pier over the easter weekend.

Women seek shade under the hulls of several beached ships that were blown inland by typhoon Haiyan.

Women seek shade under the hulls of several beached ships that were blown inland by typhoon Haiyan.

A cargo ship and shipping container rest nearly 100 metres inland from the ocean. Nearly six months after the typhoon, the majority of debris remains uncleared.

A cargo ship and shipping container rest nearly 100 metres inland from the ocean. Nearly six months after the typhoon, the majority of debris remains uncleared.

A man sits in the window of his home in Barangay 68. Many of the locals have taken to calling the neighbourhood Yolonda Village, after the Filippino name for typhoon Haiyan.

A man sits in the window of his home in Barangay 68. Many of the locals have taken to calling the neighbourhood Yolanda Village, after the Filippino name for typhoon Haiyan.

Young men drink bottles of beer together  over the easter weekend in Tacloban.

Young men drink bottles of beer together over the easter weekend in Tacloban.

Reconstruction in Tacloban

Residents of Yolanda Village search for crabs and small fish to eat.

Boys play in the ocean near Yolonda Village.

Boys play in the ocean near Yolanda Village.

A young man plays guitar on a pier in Barangay 68, one of the neighbourhoods hardest hit by typhoon Haiyan.

A young man plays guitar on a pier in Barangay 68, one of the neighbourhoods hardest hit by typhoon Haiyan.

A group of spectators stand in the rain in front of a reenactment of Jesus' crucifixion over easter weekend. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, with roughly 80% of Filipinos belonging to the faith.

A group of spectators stand in the rain in front of a reenactment of Jesus’ crucifixion over easter weekend. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, with roughly 80% of Filipinos belonging to the faith.

 

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