Tanauan: Stronger than the Storm

is wreaking havoc across the world as deadly disasters destroy coastlines and devastate communities.

For many across Asia,

fighting nature’s fury is part of

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines.

Known locally as Yolanda, it was the strongest storm to make landfall ever recorded.

8DAYS 313 km/h 895 hPa 6,340 $14bn


*Lower pressures are stronger
9DAYS 280 km/h 902 hPa 1,833 $161bn

This is the story of a small town’s five-year road to recovery.

Told through the eyes of its survivors.

The town of Tanauan on Leyte Island was wiped out in minutes.

There was silence on the streets. And the smell of
death hung in the air.

More than 1,300 people were killed.

As the body count rose, mass graves were dug near churches and schools.

Many victims were never found.

Twin brothers Elmer and Mariano Labada lived next door to each other in small shacks near the coast.

Typhoon Haiyan’s huge waves smashed into their homes.

The brothers, their wives and children were swept away.

Four of their children disappeared.

As the days passed, rescue workers told the brothers to give up looking for their children.

At Tanauan’s town hall, Mayor Pel Tecson and his wife coordinated relief efforts.

The mayor said they’d prepared for a typhoon, but no one anticipated the wall of water that would engulf them.


residents in Tanauan depended on Mayor Pel’s help, but supplies were limited.

“Some of the supplies were wet but we distributed them anyway.

Our fire truck washed away.”

Tanauan’s town hall became a makeshift hospital.



Mayor Pel wants to stop such a tragedy from ever happening again.

In the aftermath of the typhoon, children were the most vulnerable.

12-year-old Angela Tolibas was orphaned in the storm.

She had to loot shops and beg to survive.

Angela now lives with her neighbour.

But around Tanauan, many more children are alone and homeless.

Mariano lost two of his four children.

Elmer lost both of his.

After days of searching, Elmer found his daughter at the morgue.

“It seems like the typhoon took everything away from me.”

Elmer visits his daughter’s grave every week.

He always buys three candles.

One for each child he lost.

And another for everyone else who suffered.

Many of Tanauan’s residents still live in tents.



Mayor Pel Tecson says he’s doing what he can to move them into permanent housing.

Three estates are under construction.

Survivors are given new homes for free.

But they must help build them.

At the local sports hall, Mayor Pel is providing cash handouts to help rebuild homes.

“We have this slogan in the town, ‘Each new day is a better day in Tanauan’.”

Since the storm, Angela has struggled to find somewhere to call home.

She now lives in a hut right on the beach.

On average, the Philippines faces 20 storms a year because it sits on a typhoon belt.

So it’s dangerous to live near the shore.

Sometimes I can’t sleep. I wake up in the night and think,

But Angela is back in school, even if it’s just a tent.



She often writes letters to her dead parents.

Mayor Pel Tecson reveals Tanauan’s new town square.

But the town hasn’t forgotten what they’ve lost.

A memorial has been built to remember those who died in Tanauan.

Mayor Pel hopes it will help the community heal.

A 27km seawall is being constructed along the coastline to protect the community from future storm surges.

After the storm, the national government promised to build 205,000 new homes across storm-affected areas.

But not even a quarter of them are finished.

And some of those that have been built are already falling apart.

Elmer Labada has remarried and has had two children.

But he still fears the power of Mother Nature.

Whenever he hears a storm is coming, he and his family flee to higher ground.

The brothers say the economic situation now is worse than when Typhoon Haiyan hit.

Mariano rides a pedal cab to earn a meagre wage.

He says development doesn’t help the storm survivors.

has been adopted by a local family and is still in school.

She’s also started her own business selling fish rolls around town to supplement her new
family’s income.

rebuilt their homes with their families on the same plot of land.

“This is where I live.

“I’ve survived a big disaster before and maybe I can survive again.”

travels the world and advises communities how to overcome disasters.

He is still the mayor and is optimistic that Tanauan can weather any storm.

“We are stronger as a people now.”

“Stronger than the strongest storm in the world.”

to all the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Lead Journalist|Drew Ambrose

Digital Producer & Picture Editor|Rhiona-Jade Armont

Field Producers|Tiffany Ang, Khalil Majeed, Hannah Dormodo, Yas Coles, Boy Siojo

Camera|Lee Ali, Ben Emery, Matt Allard, Craig Hansen

Drone|Joel Lawrence

Archives|David Brundle

Supervising Producer|Mavourneen Dineen

101 East Executive Producer|Sharon Roobol

Design|Konstantinos Antonopoulos

Development|Mohammed Haddad


Additional footage|Reuters and AP

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