The sharks that saved a town

Three years ago, the Philippines was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. In one corner of the country, the people have found a surprising way to recover

At dawn on Friday 8 November 2013, exactly three years ago, the Philippines was struck by the deadliest typhoon in its history: Typhoon Haiyan.

The first point of impact was the eastern province of Guiuan. From there the 370-mile-wide storm travelled west across the country, devastating its picture-perfect islands before moving on to Vietnam and Laos.

As the 195mph winds struck the shore, palm trees crunched into two, buildings were ripped apart, and cars were swept up and piled on top of one another. Over the course of the next 48 hours, more than a million homes were destroyed and more than 6,000 people were killed.

In the days that followed, journalists reported scenes of utter devastation: splinters of wood and glass were smashed all over the ground, and debris littered the once-pristine beaches.

Images went viral of children walking over rubble, and of hand-painted signs stacked up saying, "Help us!" and "We need water, food, shelter". Everywhere, lives and livelihoods had been reduced to dust.

Malapascua, a small island resort that lay right in Haiyan's path, was particularly hard-hit. Buildings were flattened, fishing boats annihilated, and all power and communications lost.

To most, it seemed that this once-popular tourist destination was finished. But all hope was not lost: Malapascua still had its thresher sharks.

Thresher sharks are long-tailed creatures that use their tails as whips to stun other fish, making them easier to catch.

There are at least three species, all in the genus Alopias: pelagic thresher sharks, which are found in Malapascua; bigeyes, found in tropical oceans across the globe; and common thresher sharks, which prefer cooler waters.

The Philippines' pelagic threshers can be distinguished by the dark shading over the base of the pectoral fins.

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