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It’s been six months since the most powerful typhoon ever to strike land hit the city of Tacloban in the southeastern Philippines. More than six thousand people died and much of the city was flattened by a 13-foot-high storm surge.
The BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes was one of the first foreign journalists to reach Tacloban. He’s been back to find out what happened to the people he met in November.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
This is HERE AND NOW from NPR and WBUR Boston. I'm Jeremy Hobson.
It has been six months since the most powerful typhoon that meteorologists have ever seen strike land, hit Tacloban in the Philippines. More than 6,000 people died and the city was flattened.
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes was one of the first reporters to reach the city after the storm. He's been back to find out what happened to the people he met in November.
RUPERT WINGFIELD-HAYES, BYLINE: I'm walking down the track now towards the coast, towards the house of a family I met back in November, Gil and his boys. When I saw them last, they we're trying to get his wife's body out from underneath a fallen coconut tree.
GIL PADILLA: Hello. Coming.
WINGFIELD-HAYES: Hello, Gil?
PADILLA: Oh, Rupert
WINGFIELD-HAYES: Gil, how are you?
PADILLA: I'm now fine. Pleasure to see you, sir.
WINGFIELD-HAYES: Gil, how are you?
PADILLA: I'm fine
WINGFIELD-HAYES: Good. Good. Good. It's good to see you.
On the surface things here are much better. But when I asked Gil about his wife, Helen, it's clear he still struggling.
PADILLA: I try not to bring back the memory because it's very painful. I just forget. Just move forward. I just try to avoid getting to his grave there because when I go there, I wept. You know, if I start to remember her again I don't know what will happen.
WINGFIELD-HAYES: This is the back of Gil's house now. In front of me here is a grave of his wife, Helen. And right behind her grave another much bigger mass grave. And on the crosses here, the names in the date of birth - and so many of them are children - Rosemarie Pauling, born 1997, Christine Pauling, born 2001, Alisa Rose Pauling, born 2009, Kimberly Kate Pauling, born 2006.
(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMMING AND CHILDREN)
WINGFIELD-HAYES: In a refugee camp a little further along the coast, dozens of smiling children are playing in a huge tent German charity.
(SOUNDBITE OF CONSTRUCTION)
WINGFIELD-HAYES: Next door, the British charity Oxfam is paying former fishermen to build hundreds of new fishing boats. People here are getting help and they desperately need it.
(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)
WINGFIELD-HAYES: On my last day in Tacloban, we come across a story almost too painful to tell. In a little wooden shack on Tacloban Bay, I meet six-year-old Jian(ph). She sits on a chair steering me with her big solemn eyes. The wave took away her whole family: mother, father, and five siblings. Sitting next to Jian is Arnell(ph), the man who rescued her. His bloodshot eyes stare into the distance. With tears welling up , he tells me how he was able to save Jian from the raging waters, but not his own wife and three his children.
ARNELL: (Foreign language spoken)
WINGFIELD-HAYES: Even when I'm drunk, I still find it hard to sleep, he says. When I'm in bed, I see their faces. They're asking for help. In my nightmares I see them calling out to me to save them. I am able to save others. Why was I unable to rescue my own family?
Jian is now being cared for by neighbors. Without her parents she faces a precarious future. But without his wife and children, Arnell now says he has no reason to live and thinks only of how he can join them.
HOBSON: That's the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reporting from the Philippines.
You're listening to HERE AND NOW.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.