Photos: Life on the capsized boat that 50 typhoon survivors have made their new home

November 21, 2013

Almost two weeks after Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines, residents of the most devastated of areas are finding ways to adjust. That includes a group of about 50 survivors that Getty photojournalist Dan Kitwood found living on a boat beached near the remains of their homes in Tacloban, perhaps the Philippines' hardest-hit city. They have formed a kind of community -- cooking, playing and washing clothes together on the deck. Every space is occupied. Kitwood, who is normally based in London but has been shooting in Leyte province since after the typhoon hit, discussed his photos by e-mail.

How did you find the people on the boat?

I found the people after speaking to a Filipino colleague of mine who had heard from a local person about it. The people on board were all very friendly despite the fact that the area is a reasonably "rough" part of town. Inside the boat, and especially the hull, was incredibly hot. I have no idea why or how they stay down there, especially through the day. Probably to forget the complete chaos outside.

Can you describe what it's like?

It is very quiet and calm inside but the smell of diesel is overwhelming. Children were playing, a young man was playing a badly tuned guitar. Women swung in hammocks tied between engine blocks and other pieces of railing reading books, while others were on deck washing clothes. Younger girls and boys played cards, men cooked, and chopped wood to keep fires burning. Most just slept.

Why does anyone stay in these areas that have been so damaged? Aren't there safer areas that they can attempt to reach inland?

From a practical point of view, yes, [they] would probably be safer in an area that was not as badly damaged, though I have to say we have driven for a few hours in most directions, and I have not seen any. I think, however, that there is more to it than simple practicalities. Underneath that boat and the immediate area around it lie the remains of their homes, possessions and most likely memories. They will likely rebuild their homes and lives right in the spot that they were previously.

What kind of aid and resources do those who live on the boat have?

From what I have seen and understood from speaking to some of the people on board, they have had no real help in terms of food, water or medical assistance at all.

Many photos show people who appear to be playing or smiling, appearing optimistic. Is this the case, and if so, how can that be, given the tragedy that just struck them?

The people here are amazingly optimistic and clearly resilient. The typhoon was a massive tragedy but people appear to just want to get on with their lives. Most of the people I have spoken to say that despite the typhoon, they feel lucky to be alive.

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Max Fisher · November 21, 2013