Thousands of residents carrying white balloons walked through Tacloban City in the central Philippines to mark the first anniversary since Typhoon Haiyan hit the area, and killed or left missing close to 8,000 people.
People from Leyte and Samar provinces started walking early on Saturday as part of the commemoration.
Residents chanted prayers, with some carrying lit candles, as they made their way along the once-damaged parts of Tacloban City, where more than 2,000 people were killed.
It doesn't matter who is buried where, as long they are remembered.
Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, reporting from Tacloban, said survivors also attended masses across the city, and church bells rang to remember victims.
At a cemetery just on the outskirts of the city, people were coming in droves to lay flowers and light candles on the graves of the unidentified victims, she said.
“They are just claiming the unidentified as their own,” our correspondent said. “It doesn’t matter who is buried where, as long they are remembered.”
Typhoon Haiyan wiped out or damaged practically everything in its path as it swept ashore on November 8, 2013, with seven-metre storm surges destroying around 90 percent of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province.
The typhoon killed or left missing close to 8,000 people and displaced as many as four million.
Remembrance for victims
Survivors wore white shirts and carried balloons symbolising unity among the millions of victims affected by Haiyan.
“Well, this is to commemorate and to remember the first anniversary. It’s important that we make it meaningful, so for the next generations, people will remember that we have this new normal of very powerful typhoons,” said Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez.
|Tacloban trying to recover from Typhoon Haiyan|
The Tacloban City government has organised a series of commemorative events to mark the anniversary including a church service.
President Benigno Aquino III, a political opponent of Romualdez, however is not expected to attend the commemoration. Aquino headed to the town of Guiuan, which was also heavily hit by the typhoon.
It was only a few week ago that Aquino approved a $3.74-bn six-year master plan to rebuild housing, social services and public infrastructure.
Only 450 home have been built for displaced families so far despite the hefty $1.15-billion allocated by the government for recovery work.
Al Jazeera’s Ortigas also reported that as many as 15,000 people are still left homeless in Tacloban City alone.
The Philippines, which sees an average of 20 typhoons a year, is planning to build typhoon-resilient structures and to relocate residents living in danger zones to areas considered safer based on studies by local and international organisations.