Climate walkers reach Tacloban as Philippines marks Haiyan anniversary

Haiyan anniversary

Advocates on the last stretch of the Climate Walk. Courtesy of: Climate Walk, 2014

On 8 October 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan hit land in the Philippines. The strongest storm to make landfall in the country, Haiyan killed over 6,300 people, while hundreds more are still unaccounted for. Lives and livelihoods of entire communities were torn apart.

A year on from the tragedy, Talcoban City – worst hit by the storm – marked the anniversary with 5,000 people mournfully walking through the candle lit streets of the regional capital, passing through areas flattened by the storm’s 155 mph wind and seven-metre high storm surge.

Holding white balloons and candles, the walkers travelled through the hardest hit areas, as church bells and sirens echoed through the city’s streets.

Joining the mourners was a small group of climate advocates, who 40 days previously had embarked on a 1,000 km journey across the country from Kilometre Zero in Manila to Ground Zero of Typhoon Haiyan.

Made up of environmental groups, celebrities, government officials, faith groups, youth and individuals, the People’s Walk for Climate Justice called on world leaders to take concrete actions on climate change.

The walk also called on local governments to take action against the climate crisis, and commit to draft local climate action plans and disaster risk reduction programmes.

At the head of the march was Filipino Climate Commissioner Yeb Sano.

Sano shot into the international spotlight last year when he delivered an emotional plea to negotiators meeting at the UN climate talks in Warsaw.

Just days after Haiyan hit, and at the height of its devastation, Sano urged world leaders to “stop the climate change madness” and announced he would fast for the duration of the conference, until a meaningful outcome had been achieved.

Sano’s symbolic action has now spread across the world, and each month campaigners, faith groups and environmentalists undertake a one-day fast calling for climate action.

Speaking from Samar during the march, Sano said:

This battle can only be won in the grassroots. We cannot wait for sovereign nations to take action. We must, at the grassroots, embrace solutions. Our destination is not only Talcoban. Our destination is the hearts and minds of the nation and the whole world, hearts and minds that can change the world.

When Typhoon Haiyan hit on 8 November 2013, it wiped out or damaged everything in its path.

It destroyed 90% of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province.

More than 14.5 million people were affected by the storm, which swept through six regions and 44 provinces.

More than four million people remain homeless.

The government estimated that around $3.8 billion to rebuilt the affect communities and construct a four-metre high dike along the 27 km coastline to prevent a repeat of the disaster.

Alan Burns, a walker from North Carolina, USA and founder of Carolina Climate Action said:

I’m walking to help bring the world’s attention to extreme events such as Haiyan and I’m witnessing first hand the reality on the ground. As the only non-Filipino walking the 1,000 km, I’m learning everyday how people are still suffering one year after Typhoon Haiyan hit.

Just months after Haiyan’s destruction, Southern Luzon and Northern Visayas were again hit by Typhoon Rammasun, which damaged billions worth of infrastructure and livelihood.

Recently, Typhoon Mario flooded the streets of Manila, paralysing the country’s capital and hitting vital crops.

The 40-day Climate Walk travelled through parts of Manila, Laguna, Quezon, Sorosgon, Albay, Samar and Leyte.

It represents a growing movement of people worldwide calling for urgent climate action. Last month, hundreds of thousands of people, including some of the most climate affected communities, took to the streets of New York and across the globe to demand their leaders commit to strong action to tackle the climate crisis.

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