The impact of Haiyan
With recorded winds of 315kph, typhoon Haiyan was the most powerful storm to make landfall in recorded history. It hit the Philippines in Friday morning, creating scenes of devastation in the densely populated coastal zone that aid and UN workers are saying are the worst that they have seen since the Indian Ocean tsunami of Boxing day 2004. Many areas remain cut off, though the government has already released an estimate of at least 10,000 deaths in the province of Leyte alone, a figure which will climb steeply in days to come. It will probably prove the most deadly catastrophe in the country’s history. Rescue services and the army are overwhelmed with the tasks facing them, and international assistance is being organised.
Many roads have been washed away, and reaching damaged areas with food and essentials is very difficult, leading to reports of looting in some places where people have not had access to food or water in three days. The islands of Leyte and Samar seem to be the worst affected, though damage extends as far south as Mindanao. Many coastal towns have been razed, with 70-98 % of structures destroyed according to aerial surveys. The Interior Minister was quoted as saying ‘Imagine a kilometre wide band along the coast: All the houses, all is destroyed, swept away like matchsticks’. The storm surge was up to 8 metres tall, reaching as high as the palm trees. As many towns are still completely cut off, a full damage assessment is going to take some weeks.
Lack of power and mobile phone signal is hampering relief efforts, and damaged airports make flying in relief supplies problematic, with much of the distribution being made by helicopter. Many evacuation centres such as stadiums and churches seem to have been destroyed. Haiyan was the 25th typhoon to hit the islands this year. It has now weakened from category 5 to category 1, and is expected to reach central Vietnam this evening, where 600,000 people have been evacuated to higher ground.
As climate change takes hold, models suggest that while the average number of typhoons/hurricanes per year may slightly diminish, their average intensity is expected to increase substantially, since warmer air holds more moisture and warmer seas provide more energy to fuel the storm.
Previous posts on Haiyan: http://tinyurl.com/k2upjaq and http://tinyurl.com/n5xqrf4
Image credit: Aaron Favila/AP
Pointe des Champs Ferret (Switzerland) by Malte Karger
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