Japanese troops return to Philippines to provide aid for Typhoon Haiyan victims

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Japanese troops have landed on a beach in the Philippines. The Self Defence force went ashore less than ten kilometres from a memorial commemorating the World War Two landing of US troops who had arrived to liberate the islands from Japanese Forces.

Now over sixty years later the battle is against the devastation and disease caused by a natural disaster, Typhoon Haiyan.

Japan has sent more than 1,000 personnel and three naval warships in one of the country’s largest overseas relief operations. Close to Tacloban the Self Defence Unit went to war with pesticide.

Around 300 families have set up temporary home in the city’s convention centre and many more live in tents. Maintaining healthy sanitary conditions is a key part of the troops work. For some it is a personal mission.

“It really hit me that natural disasters are terrible things. Japan also experienced this during the Great East Japan Earthquake (the tsunami). So it would be wonderful for us Japanese if we could use that experience to help here,” said Lieutenant Hioshi Ito.

Among the rubble and remains of what were once people’s homes lie reminders that the islands were in the middle of preparing for Christmas, a season that stretches for four months in the Philippines.

Despite having no running water or electricity one family who are living in an old shop front is determined to have some Christmas cheer.

“Three days after the typhoon my daughter saw a Christmas tree in the rubble. She picked it up and fixed it because it was broken and falling apart,” explained Josephine Llego.

The tree has become a small symbol of hope in a city which bore the brunt of one of the worst storms to hit landfall. The official death toll has reached 5,240 while 1,613 are still missing.

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