Typhoon victims refuse to eat ‘tainted’ fish

Arialyn Barcarlos, 8,  outside her  home on the island of Panay which  was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. Picture: Juno McEnroe

Rural communities hit by the super typhoon in the Philippines are refusing to eat fish for fear it may contain human remains, while their livelihoods were also destroyed during the coastal destruction.

Business in Roxas, the fishing capital of the Philippines, has come to a halt with its industry left in limbo while shanty towns made of bamboo on the same island have nearly all been levelled.

UN figures now say 1.1m homes in the Philippines were demolished or damaged by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck two weeks ago today. Some 5.1m people lost their livelihoods while at least 4,000 have been confirmed dead.

Irish charity Goal has arranged a plane load of aid with Aer Lingus for the Pacific islands worst affected, which includes food and shelter for isolated rural families hit by the storm.

Charity director Sue Hodgson said a lot of coastal regions with shanty towns orientated towards fishing outside of urban areas, particularly on the island of Panay, were wiped out. “Unfortunately, with the loss of their houses and the boats, many of these people lost livelihoods.”

However, according to Goal workers many families living on the east coast of Panay are refusing to eat fish in case any ate human flesh from bodies that went out to sea during the typhoon. Similar issues arose among communities hit by the 2009 Haiti earthquake.

Fishermen lucky enough to have vessels refuse to go back to work. They say stock will be polluted with “dead humans”. Any markets which have managed to open are also not selling large amounts of fish.

The island of Panay lies north-east and several hundred kilometres from where the 200m/h typhoon first did its worst damage in Tacloban. Yet, many of Panay’s buildings on the northern side were demolished by the wind. Power lines for over 100km are down and thousands of families are expected to remain without electricity at least until the new year.

The death toll was significantly lower here than elsewhere on islands affected by Haiyan. Nonetheless, many of the homes here never stood a chance against the typhoon winds as they are built of bamboo.

Second-year student Julie Bartoleme, 18, said a priority for her was to see the homes of relatives and family fixed. “We also need food, nutritious stuff, such as rice or canned goods.”

Schools were also flattened and pupils may not return full-time to class until January. This is one of the biggest fears for rural communities where the fatalities may not have been so high but where any recovery will likely be slower than urban areas.

Panay teacher Ma Cema Deopido demonstrates ringing the school bell in the secondary school where she works. Classrooms have had their roofs ripped off and it will be months, at least, before the sounds of laughter and students return to the grounds in Carles, this area of the island.


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