For Philippine typhoon survivors, Christmas brings hope amid the rubble

For Philippine typhoon survivors, Christmas brings hope amid the rubble
Typhoon Haiyan survivors take part in the first out of nine days of Christmas vigil masses at a damaged church in Palo, Leyte, central Philippines

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines - Thousands of survivors of super typhoon Haiyan walked in darkness towards damaged churches in central Philippines at the start of Christmas vigil dawn masses on Monday, clinging to their faith as they struggle to piece together shattered lives.

Haiyan reduced almost everything in its path to rubble when it swept ashore in the central Philippines on Nov. 8, killing at least 6,069 people, leaving 1,779 missing and 4 million either homeless or with damaged homes.

The dawn masses are a widespread tradition in the Philippines, where 80 per cent of a population of about 97 million are Catholic, and many believe those who complete the vigil will be granted a wish.

"I'm hoping that our condition will improve," said Martin Tumlos, 38, the driver of a motorcycle taxi, as he hunched over the dirt grave of his one-year-old son, Marcho John, at a common burial site in the front yard of a Catholic church.

"It's painful but I have accepted what happened," said Tumlos, whose son drowned after slipping from his mother's hands when raging waters engulfed a single-storey public school where they had taken refuge from the typhoon.

Power has been restored to less than 1 per cent of Tacloban, a key business hub. Just a few dozen restaurants, gas stations, banks, retail shops and salons have reopened, as businessmen struggle to bring in supplies amid devastated infrastructure.

"In terms of normalcy, this is just a rough estimate, we're just less than 10 per cent," said city administrator Tecson John Lim.

Tacloban city still pulls an average of about 25 bodies a day from the rubble of flattened structures, or from its eastern shores, he added.

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