Tag Archives: Leyte

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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No Build Zone: Life in Tacloban After Typhoon Haiyan (Preview)

For most of the month of April I was working at a feverish pace in the Philippines, where I accepted a somewhat ambitious 11 assignments in a three week window. Despite an inconveniently timed three day fever (which caused me to pass out in front of about 50 Filipino cock fighting gamblers), unreliable communication networks, damaged equipment, and a visit from President Obama that brought air traffic to a standstill, everything miraculously got done.

Somehow, during the midst of all this running around, I found a few afternoons to visit some of the neighbourhoods in Tacloban most heavily damaged by typhoon Haiyan. The most powerful storm ever recorded to make landfall, Haiyan (or Yolanda as it is referred to locally), smashed into the central Philippines last November, killing thousands and rendering many more homeless. Nearly six months after the initial devastation, coastal residents of Barangay 68 – colloquially named Yolanda Village by residents – are struggling to rebuild what they lost.

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.  Luc Forsyth/Ruom

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. Luc Forsyth/Ruom

Reconstruction in Tacloban

The catholic cathedral in Palo, on the outskirts of Tacloban, remains without a roof after it was torn off by the winds of typhoon Haiyan. Luc Forsyth/Ruom.

Though cleanup efforts have had the full support of the community and assistance from international aid organizations, evidence of the destruction is everywhere. Several large cargo vessels rest unnaturally at the base of inland hills, roughly a hundred meters from the ocean. Shipping containers and other maritime debris can be found along the beaches and between rebuilt houses, like alien artifacts in the residential community.

For those who have managed to repair or replace the homes they lost, the challenges are far from over. A government mandated “no build zone” extends forty meters from the ocean, meaning that anyone who has rebuilt near the coast – and is therefore illegally squatting according to the law – could face homelessness again at any moment. While hospitality and friendliness are abundant for visitors to Yolanda village, for those who live there the road to recovery will be a long one.

Thousands of hardened cement bags are piled along the coast to build temporary piers and breakwaters. Luc Forsyth/Ruom.

Thousands of hardened cement bags are piled along the coast to build temporary piers and breakwaters. Luc Forsyth/Ruom.

Young men drink bottles of beer together  over the easter weekend. Many residents of Tacloban have lost their jobs due to storm damage and have little to do during the days. Luc Forsyth/Ruom.

Young men drink bottles of beer together over the easter weekend. Many residents of Tacloban have lost their jobs due to storm damage and have little to do during the days. Luc Forsyth/Ruom.

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

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

These images represent a short preview of a larger set of pictures that I will post when I’ve had a chance to organize my archive and thoughts – and repair a broken laptop!

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Underwater Gold Miners in Southern Leyte

I spent a month in Leyte last year while working on a story about independent (illegal) gold miners in the Philippines. When I heard about the magnitude of typhoon Haiyan, and that it had devastated Leyte’s largest city, Tacloban, I immediately thought of these guys.

I recently heard from a friend who used to live on Leyte, and still kept in contact with some of her old friends. Many have lost their families, and I fear the worst for the gold miners I met.

Working along the gold rich coasts of the island, these miners spend up to 10 hours a day dredging the sea floor for ore using only their hands and empty rice bags. They make their own goggles from coconuts and polished glass bottles, and most wear only flip flops as diving shoes. Their air comes through thin plastic tubes which is pumped from a small compressor on shore. Any tangle or kink in the lines would mean drowning.

The gold they find is extracted from the ore at handmade washing stations along the beach, and then sold to small-scale local buyers. From here the gold leaves the island and is taken to larger buyers who smelt the gold into disks or bricks of pure gold before shipping the product to the gold markets of Manila. For their part in the operation the divers will see very little of the profit, and despite finding gold nearly every day, are only just able to support their families on what they make.

As much as I would like to hope, I think it would be naive to imagine none of these people have been affected by the Haiyan disaster. These people had a rough life to begin with, and it has gotten much, much harder. They were extremely welcoming to me, and once things settle down I plan to make a trip to see what their situation is and how I can help.

Thin air tubes are connected to a compressor. Mining also takes place in the ocean and though extremely dangerous, workers use this air system to breathe rather than more expensive scuba gear.

Thin air tubes are connected to a compressor. Mining also takes place in the ocean and though extremely dangerous, workers use this air system to breathe rather than more expensive scuba gear.

Thin air tubes are connected to a compressor. Mining also takes place in the ocean and though extremely dangerous, workers use this air system to breathe rather than more expensive scuba gear.

Thin air tubes are connected to a compressor. Mining also takes place in the ocean and though extremely dangerous, workers use this air system to breathe rather than more expensive scuba gear.

An underwater miner prepares to dive. The miners often make their own goggles out of wood and polished glass bottles.

An underwater miner prepares to dive. The miners often make their own goggles out of wood and polished glass bottles.

Two senior miners monitor the diving, watching the air tubes for kinks or signs of trouble. Since the divers are weighted with large boulders any failure in the air system can be fatal.

Two senior miners monitor the diving, watching the air tubes for kinks or signs of trouble. Since the divers are weighted with large boulders any failure in the air system can be fatal.

A miner hauls unprocessed rock from the seabed onto the beach.

A miner hauls unprocessed rock from the seabed onto the beach.

A boy washes crushed rock to separate the sand and mud from the gold dust.

A boy washes crushed rock to separate the sand and mud from the gold dust.

Liquid mercury is used to separate the gold from the sand and mud. Extremely poisonous, the use of mercury for mining is illegal in most countries, including the Philippines.

Liquid mercury is used to separate the gold from the sand and mud. Extremely poisonous, the use of mercury for mining is illegal in most countries, including the Philippines.

The raw gold is melted in ceramic bowls to solidify it into circular disks in a refinery on the neighbouring island of Mindanao.

The raw gold is melted in ceramic bowls to solidify it into circular disks in a refinery on the neighbouring island of Mindanao.

A disk of pure gold, ready to be sold.

A disk of pure gold, ready to be sold.

A low-level buyer weighs the day’s gold. When he has collected enough to make the trip profitable, he will transport the gold to the neighbouring island of Mindanao for refining.

A low-level buyer weighs the day’s gold. When he has collected enough to make the trip profitable, he will transport the gold to the neighbouring island of Mindanao for refining.

A gold market in Chinatown, Manila. Some of the gold from Pinot An makes its way to the nation’s capital, though the vast majority is smuggled out of the country.

A gold market in Chinatown, Manila. Some of the gold from Pinot An makes its way to the nation’s capital, though the vast majority is smuggled out of the country.

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Leyte Gold: Small Scale Mining in the Philippines

From the earth to the market, gold is one of the most prized materials in existence. In Pinut-An, a small community on the island of Leyte, Philippines, gold is everything. Largely destroyed by a landslide in 2006, Pinot An relies heavily on gold to keep it alive.

Small-scale mining operations are everywhere, with tunnels carved both into the mountains and the sea floor. Workers labour with minimal safety precautions in conditions so dangerous that any accident would likely be fatal. For this work they are typically paid $180 per month, while the mine owner will earn ten times that amount.

This story documents southern Leyte’s small scale gold miners as they live and work in a mountain camp, extracting one of the world’s most valuable elements for far away markets.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Gold miners smoke cigarettes in their mountainside camp before heading into the mines.

 

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Miners carry anvil stones from the beach to their mountain camp, which they will use as platforms to crush raw ore against. The stones wear out quickly from the heavy impacts of the miner’s hammers and must be replaced regularly.

 

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A 14 year-old miner walks into the camp’s active tunnel where he will work hauling gold ore to the surface.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Miners inspect the wall of their active tunnel, looking for traces of gold.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A miner works to repair the rubber head strap of his LED flashlight, the only source of light available underground.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A miner looks to the tunnel ceiling as debris falls. Lacking modern safety regulations, the miners rely on their experience alone to avoid being caught in a cave-in.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Miners wash their hands under a trickle of water falling from the tunnel ceiling. The wet rainforest climate on the surface means the tunnels walls are constantly permeated with water.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Miners smoke cigarettes inside their tunnel. A group of five miners can consume up to 200 cigarettes in a day.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A miner tests the weight of a sack of raw ore, preparing to haul it to the surface.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Miners inspect a piece of harvested ore, suspecting they have struck a particularly lucrative seam.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Miners wash pieces of crushed rock. Pieces that might contain gold are put in a bag for transport to a nearby milling station, while valueless rocks are discarded.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Miners use small sledgehammers to crush large stones into more manageable pieces before taking them to a nearby milling station.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Clothes hang to dry in the mountainside camp. Since the tunnels are constantly dripping water, the miners are always wet and have to dry their clothes multiple times a day.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A miner checks his cell phone during a break from the tunnels.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A miner takes a nap during a midday break.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Miners gather around to watch their 14 year-old colleague get his hair cut.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Workers at a milling station inspect textured pads for traces of gold dust. Crushed rock is rinsed with water and runs down the ramp, while the heavier gold particles stick to the pads.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A mill worker hefts a bucket of crushed rock.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A worker at a milling station swirls crushed rock in a pan made from palm trees. When done correctly, the heavy gold dust will settle in the pan’s conical centre.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Gold particles are heated with a blow torch to remove water so the mine owner can accurately weigh the day’s harvest.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

The mine owner prepares to weigh the day’s gold harvest. He will sell the gold on the neighbouring island of Mindanao, where it will then be exported to Manila or overseas.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Mine owner Gil Mercado uses a pocket calculator to determine the possible profit from the day’s harvest. He will not make the trip to Mindanao until he has enough to make the journey worthwhile.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Miners inspect themselves for mud after finishing a day in the tunnels.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A miner takes a bucket shower in the mountainside camp.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A 14 year-old miner throws his t-shirt towards the beach after washing himself in the Pacific Ocean.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A young miner styles his hair after a day of work.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

Miners eat together in their mountainside camp. While some have homes in the nearby village of Pinut-An, they often elect to stay in the camp to be closer to the tunnels.

Small Scale Gold Mining in The Philippines

A miner heads home after a 12 hour day.

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