Philippines says 'thank you' to the world for Typhoon Haiyan aid
Billboards in major cities spell out message of gratitude for relief efforts in Haiyan aftermath
The Philippines said "thank you" on billboards around the world yesterday in gratitude for the massive outpouring of international help after Typhoon Haiyan killed about 8,000 people three months ago.
Electronic billboards lit up with "Thank you" signs at New York's Times Square, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Tokyo's Shibuya Crossing, London's Piccadilly Circus and five other cities on Friday, exactly three months after the super-typhoon struck the central Philippines.
"The number of lives lost and affected is unprecedented. But ever since then, the world has been one with the Philippines in helping rebuild the nation," the tourism ministry behind the advert and social media campaign said on its website.
"The Philippines wants to say a big thank you to everyone who are helping us rebuild after Typhoon Haiyan," the ministry said on its Twitter page, where it later posted the billboard pictures.
Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever to hit land, smashed across 171 towns and cities in the central islands with a combined land area the size of Portugal, wrecking the homes of more than four million people.
The government is still collecting corpses and looking for nearly 2,000 missing people with 6,201 deaths already confirmed, many of them swept away by giant, tsunami-like waves unleashed by Haiyan on coastal communities.
In the hard-hit central city of Tacloban, many shops have reopened in a frenzy of rebuilding but tents and lean-to structures remain the norm in many ruined neighbourhoods, most of which are still without power.
"We're traumatised but there is nowhere else to go," Helen May Gabornes, a 27-year-old mother of two, said as she prepared a meal of tinned sardines in a muddy schoolyard. The fisherman's wife and her extended family are among about 500 people living in tents at the school.
She said her family went to live with Manila relatives on November 12, but returned after Christmas because they could not find jobs and were becoming a burden at her sister's home.
"We came back because we heard the government is giving free housing, but so far, nothing," she said.
Russell Geekie, spokesman for the UN disaster agency in the Philippines, said the government-led relief effort had addressed many of the survivors' most acute emergency needs.
It was shifting to an "early recovery" phase with a focus on restoring livelihoods for millions of people, he said. However, he added that "shelter needs remain enormous".