Prayers, tears in Philippines one year after super typhoon

Prayers, tears in Philippines one year after super typhoon

TACLOBAN, Philippines - Survivors of the strongest typhoon ever to hit land descended on mass graves Saturday to mark one year since the storm devastated the central Philippines and condemned millions to deeper poverty.

Super Typhoon Haiyan claimed more than 7,350 lives as it swept in off the Pacific Ocean, with its record winds and once-in-a-generation storm surges flattening entire towns.

The typhoon tore across a corridor of islands where about 14 million people lived in farming and fishing communities that were already among the nation's poorest.

The rebuilding effort has been painfully slow for most survivors, with millions poorer and many dangerously exposed to the next big storm as they still live in shanty homes along coastal areas.

In an outpouring of grief, tens of thousands marched to the grave sites under the hot sun on Saturday to offer flowers, light candles and say prayers.

Josephine Crisostomo's three children died during the storm, including her youngest, who would have turned two years old on Sunday.

"I miss my children terribly, especially John Dave who would have celebrated his birthday tomorrow... I miss you, son, I love you so much," Crisostomo, 41, said at one of the mass graves in the outskirts of badly-hit Tacloban city.

Using felt-tip pens, mourners wrote names of those who died on the hundreds of white crosses planted on parched earth in symbolic gestures as the more than 2,000 people buried there had not been identified.

"I am looking for my brother, but his name is not on the list of those buried here," Elena Olendan, 50, told AFP, her eyes welling with tears, as she wandered around the grave site, about the size of six basketball courts.

Olendan had not reported her 60-year-old brother, Antonio, as missing when Haiyan struck. She found a cross on the far end of the mass grave and wrote her brother's name on it.

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