In Depth: Philippines recovering from typhoon - abc27 WHTM

In Depth: Philippines recovering from typhoon

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TACLOBAN CITY, Phiippines (WHTM) -

Walking by makeshift homes on the coast of Tacloban City in the Philippines, it is still very clear that something very horrible happened.

There are still empty spaces where homes used to be, debris still litters the ground and water, and every once in a while you can smell a trace of death.

Three months ago Super Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as it's known in the Philippines, slammed into the coastal city, forcing a 13-foot wall of water a half a mile inland. Hundreds of homes were washed away, and in a matter of minutes and thousands were killed.

"There was so much death in so little time, and the signs of the death can only be smelled. You cannot see them anymore," said Bernie Lopez, a World Surgical Foundation documenter.

Lopez visited Tacloban City one month after the storm to document the damage for the World Surgical Foundation. He returned with abc27 News to take another look and act as a guide.

"I see very little difference. People are working, there are more houses to live in, but basically it looks the same to me," said Lopez.

When the storm surge hit the city, the water slammed several tanker ships into the town. Three months later, nine of them are still in the city. Locals are asking the government to have them removed, saying they are a constant reminder of the devastation. They also believe there are still bodies under the ships.

"The recovery of bodies is still going on 100 days after the typhoon," said Lopez.

One hundred days later, they are still burying their dead. A few miles outside the city, a mass grave with more then 400 bodies is being excavated.

"Randy here, who lives around the area, just told me that during the first few days after Yolanda, most of the bodies were just lined up here in one lane of the road," said Dr. Karen Go, a translator. "Randy said it was a bad feeling for him, especially the smell, the stench."

Workers are using a backhoe to dig up the bodies. It is a slow process.

"When they excavate and they see a body bag, they immediately remove it and bring it to Holy Cross because they are being eaten by dogs," said Go.

The body bags are lined up in a tent at Holy Cross Cemetery just down the road.

The smell of death is overwhelming.  Workers prepare burial sites nearby. Locals say it brings them peace of mind to know the unclaimed bodies will be put to rest.

"Randy said he likes the idea because they were getting scared around the area, because they were scared of spirits," said Go.

Life in Tacloban City must go on, and although it is the sea that took so many lives it is also what gives them life. A fisherman explained why he is rebuilding his house in the same spot despite the threat of future storms.

"He says he is staying here because he grew up here, and this is where he will stay. He will not move anywhere else," said Lopez.

In the wake of such destruction you would not think you would find smiles, but that is how Filipinos handle their pain and loss.

"In terms of how they feel about this, no problem with them. They can take it. They are tough, and I am proud of that," said Lopez.

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