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. Philippine Survivors Left Feeling Forgotten

More than 1,300 people were killed or went missing , due to Typhoon Durian, when the mud, water and boulders tore through villages, and tens of thousands were left homeless. The United Nations says at least 30,000 people are still living in tents, school buildings and improvised shelters. Meanwhile "large numbers" of families were living with their relatives, straining household finances.
by Jason Gutierrez
Guinobatan, Philippines (AFP) April 12, 2007
Ramon Llenaresas stares blankly at the fading photograph of his wife and one of their children, his last remaining memento of a happy family life. They were all killed in last November's Philippine typhoon, when a wall of mud and water washed away their house, and the picture helps him try to remember what they looked like. It is almost all he has left.

"Sometimes I don't remember everything that has happened. Pieces of my recollection are gone," the 34-year-old says. He has no remaining pictures of their other five kids.

"What is more painful is that I am starting to forget my children's faces," he says.

But like countless other survivors, Llenaresas says he too is now being forgotten. Still living at an old sports complex that has been turned into an evacuation camp, they are running short of food and water -- and hope.

Four months after the tragedy of Typhoon Durian, many survivors here in the hard-hit province of Bicol say a lack of aid and basic supplies is keeping them from being able to move on.

The camps are lacking clean water, and the latrines are overflowing. Electricity has not been fully restored. The storm's fury virtually wiped out entire industries, taking jobs and futures with it.

"Much more needs to be done," says Ida Mae Fernandez of the UN's International Office of Migration (IOM), the lead agency managing the camps, which are home to thousands of typhoon survivors.

"What we're facing now is a prolonged displacement of affected families who continue to be very much in need of assistance," she says.

More than 1,300 people were killed or went missing when the mud, water and boulders tore through villages, and tens of thousands like Llenaresas were left homeless.

The United Nations says at least 30,000 people are still living in tents, school buildings and improvised shelters. Meanwhile "large numbers" of families were living with their relatives, straining household finances.

"There remains a huge gap to be filled," it says, despite efforts and appeals for donor countries to pour in more funds.

While Australia, Canada, Sweden and other countries pledged help, only six percent of the 46 million dollars the UN originally estimated was needed have come in.

District governor Fernando Gonzales says the provincial government has been practically crippled, a combination of the typhoon's destruction and the lack of funds that have arrived to help rebuild.

"Because of the magnitude of what happened here, it is taking much longer for us to be able to stand on our own feet and start getting out of external help," Gonzales says.

"We are appealing for a continuation of aid, for the (international) community not to abandon us."

In addition to the lack of relief, many survivors are also still living in emotional limbo, grieving for missing loved ones whose bodies have never been found.

"I do not think there is still a future for me here," says Daisy Abareta, 23, whose husband Jerson and infant daughter Angel remain missing and are presumed dead.

"My husband was such a nice person, and my Angel had just learned how to walk. Why has this happened to me?"

The force of the floodwater stripped Daisy's clothes off, and rescuers found her shivering and naked, walking aimlessly among the dead bodies and debris hours after the waters subsided.

"I celebrated my wedding anniversary alone on January 3, and my daughter's second birthday on January 23," she sobs. "I will be celebrating alone for the rest of my life."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Aid Reaches All Of Tsunami-Devasted Areas In Solomons
Honiara (AFP) April 11, 2007
Emergency supplies have reached all the areas devastated by last week's earthquake and tsunami in the western Solomon Islands, officials said Tuesday. "What we don't know is the exact quantity of how much aid has reached each specific village and person. We'll get that information soon," said Julian Makaa of the National Disaster Management Office.

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