Philippines marks five years since its deadliest storm

This file photo taken on Nov. 20, 2013 shows super typhoon Haiyan victims sifting through the rubble of their destroyed homes as a military cargo plane flies overhead in Tacoblan. (AFP/Nicolas Asfouri)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Philippines marks five years since its deadliest storm

TACLOBAN, Philippines: Philippine survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan recalled their terror and loss while gathered Thursday at a mass grave for thousands killed five years ago in the country’s worst storm on record.
Then the strongest storm to ever hit land, Haiyan left more than 7,360 people dead or missing across the central Philippines with its tsunami-like storm surges wiping out communities and triggering a global humanitarian response.
In Tacloban, the worst-hit city, residents painted gravestones, laid flowers and lit candles at a cemetery in memory of the typhoon dead, shedding tears as they recounted how they themselves had survived.
“I felt like it was the end of the world. It was like I was in a washing machine, a whirlpool. I was so afraid,” Amelita Gerado, 49, told AFP, describing the giant wall of seawater that swamped her home.
“There is still pain, a scar, but we are recovering,” said the woman, whose brother-in-law was among those killed in Tacloban.
The city government has declared November 8 a “day of remembrance and gratitude” to mark the devastation wreaked by the 2013 typhoon, which highlighted how little-prepared the disaster-prone Southeast Asian nation was for disasters of that magnitude.
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.
But Haiyan remains the most powerful, with gusts exceeding 305 kilometers (190 miles) per hour at first landfall.
Storm surges higher than trees crashed into densely populated areas, leaving corpses strewn across streets and washing ships to shore.
Survivors and aid groups say rehabilitation has been slow, especially for the million families who lost their homes.
Of the target 205,128 permanent houses for those living in so-called danger zones, only 100,709 have been built, President Rodrigo Duterte’s government said.
“We are addressing issues that cause the delay, which include limited availability of titled lands for resettlement, slow processing and issuance of permits,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday.
Relocation sites built about an hour away from the low-lying coastal city also lacked a steady supply of electricity, drinking water, and jobs, authorities added.
For many whose relatives remain missing, the absence of their loved ones’ remains is also a lingering challenge.
In the Tacloban cemetery on Thursday, survivors wrote names on white crosses stuck on top of a mass grave as a way to find closure.
“We just put gravestones here even if we are not sure their bodies are here, just so we have somewhere to light candles. I want to honor their memory,” said Michael Ybanez, who lost his mother, sister, a nephew and a niece in the tragedy.


Thousands of protesters try to storm Georgia parliament

Updated 15 min 4 sec ago
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Thousands of protesters try to storm Georgia parliament

  • Tens of thousands rallied in Tbilisi, demanding speaker Irakli Kobakhidze step down after a Russian lawmaker addressed the country’s parliament from the speaker’s seat
  • The Russian MP’s presence in Georgia’s parliament prompted outrage in the ex-Soviet nation which in 2008 fought and lost a brief but bloody war with Moscow

TBILISI: Thousands of protesters attempted Thursday to storm the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi, furious that a Russian lawmaker addressed the assembly from the speaker’s seat during an international event.
Demanding that the parliamentary speaker resign, about 10,000 protesters broke riot police cordons to enter the parliament courtyard, an AFP reporter witnessed. Police pushed them back, but several protesters continued trying to enter the building.
Earlier, tens of thousands rallied in central Tbilisi, demanding speaker Irakli Kobakhidze step down after a Russian lawmaker controversially addressed the country’s parliament from the speaker’s seat.
Russian Communist lawmaker Sergei Gavrilov was speaking during an annual meeting of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), a forum of lawmakers from predominantly Orthodox countries.
The Russian MP’s presence in fiercely pro-Western Georgia’s parliament prompted outrage in the ex-Soviet nation which in 2008 fought and lost a brief but bloody war with Moscow over breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
A group of Georgian opposition lawmakers demanded the Russian delegation leave the parliament’s plenary chamber.
Many protesters held Georgian and EU flags and placards that read “Russia is an occupier.”
“This is a spontaneous protest by ordinary Georgians, it has not been organized by any political party,” an MP from opposition European Georgia party, Giga Bokeria, told AFP at the rally.
Georgian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili — widely believed to be calling the shots in Georgia as the leader of his ruling Georgian Dream party — said in a statement that he “fully shares the sincere outrage of the Georgian citizens.”
He added that he told the speaker to suspend the session.
“It is unacceptable that a representative of the occupier country chairs a forum in the Georgian parliament,” Ivanishvili said.