Philippine typhoon survivors strive to live up to the Christmas spirit

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PHOTO BY AGENCIES

Across the centre of the mostly Catholic Philippines, people are scraping together whatever they can to celebrate Christmas, nearly seven weeks after the storm. Some are struggling to cope with their grief.

The November 8 storm was one of the strongest ever to hit land. It wiped out virtually everything in its path, killing more than 6,100 people. Another 1,800 are listed as missing.

More than four million people are homeless, celebrating Christmas in tents, evacuation centres, or in the ruins of their houses.

Tonningsen, 43, a single mother of four, pried a battered, three-foot (one-meter) artificial Christmas tree from the bank of mud and debris thrown up by the storm by her tiny, partly damaged home in the town of Palo, and put it up on the front porch.

“I just washed it so we’ll have some semblance of Christmas, even if we’re in dire straits,” said Tonningsen, standing outside her home, now patched with corrugated iron also salvaged from the debris.