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.


The storm

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

"I saw my son getting further from me.

Typhoon Haiyan’s huge waves smashed into their homes.

The brothers, their wives and children were swept away.

Four of their children disappeared.

"We searched for three days without eating or sleeping.

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

Life would never be the same again.

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

"The windows were shuddering.

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.

"They are queuing for medicines.

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

Our fire truck washed away."

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

"We will have to relocate the families.

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.

"There’s a bad smell.

"My father died there."

"My brother buried his body near the sea and then I started looking for my mother."

Angela now lives with her neighbour.

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

"So this is your house?

"I dream about my father and sometimes I can feel his spirit.


One year on

Mariano lost two of his four children.

Elmer lost both of his.

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

"I wanted to hold her but I couldn’t.

"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 times, I wished the waves killed me.

“I ask for forgiveness because I feel guilty that I couldn’t save them.”

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

"They used to live in small shanties without toilets.

Three estates are under construction.

Survivors are given new homes for free.

But they must help build them.

"We call this ‘sweat equity’.

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, when I swim, I feel like I step on hands, feet and fingers in the sand.

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

it’s just me and my brother now."

She often writes letters to her dead parents.

"Dear father, we miss you, too.”


Five years on

Mayor Pel Tecson reveals Tanauan’s new town square.

"You should come here at five o’clock in the afternoon.

Life is back in Tanauan.

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

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

"We don’t want them to forget the lessons.

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.

"It will not completely stop, but it will usually mitigate the impact.

"This is our only home, this is our only place."

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.

"I know now how hard it is to lose a child.

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

"The big companies can build near the sea but the poor, whose livelihood is there, are being chased out."

Mariano rides a pedal cab to earn a meagre wage.

He says development doesn’t help the storm survivors.



Angela Tolibas

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.

The Labada brothers

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

"We won’t survive if another huge storm strikes."

“This is where I live.

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

Pel Tecson

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 storm.

“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

Film 1: 2013


Film 2: 2014


Film 3: 2018