Monday, November 11, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan leaves apocalyptic damage to some of the Philippines

Monday morning, the Washington Post has a detailed story about the catastrophe left in the Philippines left by Typhoon Haiyan (o Yolanda), which crossed the nation on Nov. 8.  About ten percent of the country is heavily damaged. 

The Washington Post reports the worst destruction in Tacloban, a city of 200,000, on the East side, with 10000 dead and widespread looting and breakdown of order.  That city was within the band where sustained winds exceeded 115 mph.  But some towns in the 60-115 area were also destroyed, including Coron and Busuanga. 

The country is more exposed to extreme tropical weather than the US because it is much closer to the Equator.  I remember the country seemed like a curiosity as a boy, as it appeared on board games like Global Pursuit.  Haiyan may be the largest hurricane ever to develop on Earth (three times the area of Katrina), and could have covered an area the size of Texas.  It is not clear if it comes from climate change. The country seems to have a much weaker infrastructure than Japan.  
   
But severe hurricanes at that latitude do develop later in the fall, and have occurred in December.  It’s unlikely that a storm of this size could strike the Atlantic or even the Gulf this late.  However, Hurricane Hazel generated 90 mph winds in the DC area in October 1954;  I remember that storm as a boy, but it was not particularly destructive in north Arlington.

CNN called Haiyan stronger than Katrina and Sandy combined, and reports gusts hitting land of over 230 mph, like an F4 tornado.  Anderson Cooper narrates this video.


The Washington Post coverage by Chico Harlan and Carmela Cruz is here. NBC News has detailed coverage (by Dr. Nancy Snyderman and others) and slide show here and reports over 56,000 homes destroyed on the island of Panay.
 
The media does list many relief organizations.  Can churches organize on-the-ground relief trips?  Only the largest organizations have been able to do this for Haiti, and this is likely to be true of this disaster. Right now, this is a job for military humanitarian missions, starting with Navy hospital ships.  But a catastrophe can be a great equalizer.  The Philippines did have problems with the presence of Al Qaeda after 9/11.  

I must say that during some portions of my own adult life, people have sometimes talked about immigrants from this country with some degree of flippancy.

The film "La Source" about relief in Haiti (Movies blog Oct. 26, 2013) seems relevant.

I'm told by business contacts that the areas well south of the path of the eye of the typhoon are functioning and have power and services, despite some damage.

Wikipedia attribution link for Philippines map. 

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