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The Eye of the Storm

Typhoon Haiyan made landfall on November 8th 2013 and was the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing more than 6,000 people. Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, had sustained winds of 315 km/h making it the strongest typhoon ever to reach landfall. Leyte Island and the city of Tacloban were completely devastated by the intense winds and a storm surge between five and eight meters high. Millions lost their homes and were displaced and what was left was an apocalyptic landscape, testament to the awesome power of nature. The poor and most vulnerable were most affected. The unofficial shantytowns made of flimsy wooden structures which crowded the shoreline of the city were smashed and pulverised by the storm surge. People described seeing the bay empty before the surge. Some recognised this as a warning sign and fled to higher and more solid structures. Thousands in the city were not so lucky as a series of huge waves smashed their way inland. Many bodies lay tangled in the debris others were laid out on the roadsides for weeks afterwards, waiting to be identified and collected. As the storm battered the Philippines Sean Sutton was working in Vietnam, documenting the the work of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) there. A couple of days after the storm, press reports warned of the dangers caused by ammunition and weapons washed out of a munitions store at Tacloban airport so MAG decided to send him to the Philippines to investigate.

Over the coming days, Sean witnessed the heroic efforts of the US Pacific fleet and the Philippine Air Force as they evacuated over 50,000 to Cebu and Manila, 600 at a time crammed into Hercules transport planes, and flee in vital supplies for survivors of the disaster. MAG meanwhile was brought in to assist with the location and safe disposal of missiles and other ordnance which had been swept along by the waves and was turning up on the beaches of the devastated island.

The most resounding aspect of this tragedy was the incredible spirit of the people affected. Their attitude to the future following such a comprehensive disaster was filled with religious faith and resilience. As with many other emergencies, NGOs and aid organisations had to rouse international state and individual donors to cover the huge costs of supplying food and shelter to hundreds of thousands of displaced people.Sean's comprehensive coverage of the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan will be exhibited at the annual Visa pour l'Image photo festival in Perpignan, France, in September 2014 and has been nominated for the Visa d'Or photo prize at the festival.
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