In two coastal villages in Tacloban City, residents wake up every day to constant reminders of the death and destruction wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan. In Barangays 69 and 70, seven ships lay on land, stuck in the middle of once-thriving communities after having been swept ashore by surges during the storm.
It’s unsettling to see huge cargo ships lying in the middle of villages; in fact it’s outlandish. I journeyed with a group of volunteers last weekend to see the rumored ships which lay in coastal villages to the north of downtown Tacloban.
As you walk through these villages, it seems like you could be in a perverse dream. Tiny ramshackle homes of makeshift tarpaulin and salvaged plywood lie in the shadow of massive cargo ships, which have become permanent fixtures of this post-typhoon landscape. Many squatters have turned the ships into short-term homes. As you walk by, you can see hammocks and lines of drying laundry hanging from balconies on cargo holds.
I took the risk of climbing up a ship ladder to see the makeshift shelters for myself and found that one of the main decks had been turned into a playground for the barangay children. They barely noticed me as I walked through the fringes of their raucous game of tag frisbee. Barangays 69 and 70 are among the areas of Tacloban with the highest death toll from the storm. In Barangay 70 residents say over 250 people died during the storm and at least the same number are missing. Before the storm, Barangay 70 had close to 800 residents.
In Barangay 69, the cargo ship MV Ligaya sits in the middle of the main road through the village (in fact, you have to walk underneath the ship to get to the next village – Barangay 70. I followed a group of barefoot children crawling underneath the vessel through an opening about four feet high). Barangay leaders have asked the owners of the ships to remove them. The plan is to cut the vessels into pieces and remove them bit by bit. No progress has been made to remove the ships, despite the fact that the Task Force Yolanda Council (TFYC) set a deadline for owners to remove the vessels by Feb. 15.
For now, villagers continue to live in the shadow of these washed up giants, which serve as a constant reminder of the slowness of the relief effort and the magnitude of deconstruction still needed to rebuild after the typhoon.
You can see additional photos in the slideshow below.