Legacy of a Supertyphoon
On 8 November 2013, Typhoon Yolanda (internationally known as Typhoon Haiyan), one of the most powerful recorded storms in history, made landfall near Guiuan in southeastern Samar. The storm plotted a course due west through the heart of the Visayas, crossing directly over major five major islands: Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Panay and Coron in Palawan. Worst hit was eastern Visayas' capital, Tacloban. A 5m storm surge swept over this city of 250,000 and the nearby towns of Palo, Tanuan, Tolosa and Basey in Samar. Countless people died in the tidal wave; the official death toll was less than 6000, but some locals estimate the figure could have been double that.
Although wind speeds were extreme, the major cause of damage and loss of life was storm surge. Yolanda's tide of destruction destroyed Tacloban's airport terminal and convention centre, and ripped up all but the most solid concrete structures. Further east, Guiuan's 16th-century church collapsed and there was significant damage across a swathe of eastern Leyte and Samar.
Yolanda's immediate impact was devastating, but in the months and years that followed communities across the region have gotten on with rebuilding their homes, barangays, towns and cities. A roster of international aid agencies has aided reconstruction efforts.
Today, most Yolanda-affected areas look in surprisingly good shape, all things considered. Roads, ports and airports are open. For travellers the region is a delight to explore. Tacloban has a buzzing restaurant scene, aided by exiles who have returned from Manila and abroad to rebuild the city. The highway between Basey and Guiuan has been repaired and is in fine condition.