Typhoon ‘Yolanda,’ one of the strongest typhoons on record struck the Philippines, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes and knocking out power and communications in several provinces. But the nation appeared to avoid a major disaster because the rapidly moving typhoon blew away before wreaking more damage, officials said.
Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) left the Philippines early Saturday on a path toward Southeast Asia, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tweeted. Forecasters said the storm was expected to pick up renewed strength over the South China Sea on its way toward Vietnam.
As of 11am, over 100 people are feared dead in the wake of “Yolanda’s” destruction, according to Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
Nearly 750,000 people were forced to flee their homes.
Weather officials said ‘Yolanda’ had sustained winds of 235 kph (147 mph) with gusts of 275 kph (170 mph) when it made landfall. By those measurements, ‘Yolanda’ would be comparable to a strong Category 4 hurricane in the U.S., nearly in the top category, a 5.
Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are the same thing. They are just called different names in different parts of the world.
Because of cut-off communications in the Philippines, it was impossible to know the full extent of casualties and damage. At least two people were electrocuted in storm-related accidents, one person was killed by a fallen tree and another was struck by lightning, official reports said.
Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said the typhoon ripped roofs off houses and triggered landslides that blocked roads.
The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.
“When you’re faced with such a scenario, you can only pray, and pray and pray,” Mercado told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that mayors in the province had not called in to report any major damage.
“I hope that means they were spared and not the other way around,” he said. “My worst fear is there will be massive loss of lives and property.”
Eduardo del Rosario, head of the disaster response agency, said the speed at which the typhoon sliced through the central islands — 40 kph (25 mph) — helped prevent its 600-kilometer (375-mile) band of rain clouds from dumping enough of their load to overflow waterways. Flooding from heavy rains is often the main cause of deaths from typhoons.
“It has helped that the typhoon blew very fast in terms of preventing lots of casualties,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said. He said the massive evacuation of villagers before the storm also saved many lives.
The Philippines, which is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year, has in recent years become more serious about preparations to reduce deaths. Public service announcements are frequent, as are warnings by the president and high-ranking officials that are regularly carried on radio and TV and social networking sites.
High waves triggered by powerful winds of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” pound the sea wall of Legazpi City on Friday. AFP
President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.
Among the evacuees were thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters since a magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit the island province last month.
Relief workers said they were struggling to find ways to deliver food and other supplies, with roads blocked by landslides and fallen trees.
World weather experts were calling the typhoon one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record at the time it hit land, but not quite the windiest. There were disputes over just how strong it is because of differences in the way storms are measured.
“In terms of the world I don’t think it’s the strongest,” said Taoyang Peng, a tropical cyclone scientist at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva. But he added that “it is one of the strongest typhoons to make landfall” and probably the strongest to hit the Philippines.
The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center put Haiyan’s sustained winds at 315 kph (196 mph) just minutes before it made landfall Thursday, which would be a world record. However, officials in Tokyo and the Philippines but the wind speed at about 235 kph (147 mph).
Peng said his group considers Tokyo the authority in this case because it’s the closest regional center to the storm.
The best way to measure a storm is with radar from a plane flying in and out of it. That’s not done in Asia, where they use satellite imagery and ground measurements instead.
Not until meteorologists can conduct a deep investigation will scientists know just how strong Haiyan actually was, but it will easily be one of the strongest on record, former U.S. National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield told the AP on Friday.
Mayfield described looking at radar images of Haiyan, saying, “it has got to weaken, it has got to weaken” — and yet it didn’t.
‘Yolanda’ weakens, on way out of PH
200,000 affected by ‘Yolanda’—DSWD
Search and rescue, power, telco services restoration top priority
Originally posted: 1:39 am | Saturday, November 9th, 2013
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TAGS: super typhoon, Typhoon, Typhoon Yolanda, Weather
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A 2013 study assesses Tacloban's vulnerability to climate change impacts–including storms like Yolanda
DEVASTATION IN TACLOBAN. A general shot shows houses destroyed by the strong winds caused by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) at Tacloban, eastern island of Leyte on November 9, 2013. AFP/Noel Celis
MANILA, Philippines – One day in September, a group of Taclobanons and environmentalists foresaw that a super typhoon named Hagibis would wreak havoc in their city in year 2020.
The prediction was for a scenario-building exercise with Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines to help the city assess its disaster-preparedness.
Today, Tacloban is a wasteland where dead bodies rot in open air and survivors struggle to live. Almost all homes and structures are obliterated. Food and water are in scarce supply. Taclobanons never expected the storm to come 7 years early. (READ: Tacloban devastated; at least 100 dead)
There are many reasons why Tacloban was among the cities worst-hit by nightmare-turned-reality Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Some of these reasons were predicted by the study that resulted from the scenario-building exercises in Tacloban.
The city's large population, high level of urbanization, location and weak coastal areas all contributed to Tacloban's unique vulnerability, revealed the study.
Entitled "Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Impacts," the study evaluates the vulnerabilities of select Philippine cities to the impacts of climate change which includes extreme weather events like storms.
Tacloban is one of 12 cities assessed by WWF-Philippines and other experts from 2011 to 2013. Initially due for release in December, the launch of the Tacloban assessment was moved to end of December to include an analysis of Yolanda.
The document aims to help local government leaders, city planners and the business sector create strategies to ensure the city's survival and strengthen its economy in the face of disaster.
HOPING FOR BETTER DAYS. Children scramble for normalcy amidst the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Photo by Rupert Ambil/Rappler
Monci Hinay, who led the Tacloban assessment team, said the study assessed the city on 3 main variables: its climate or environmental exposure, social economic senstivity, and adaptive capacity.
Climate or environmental exposure considers climate, temperature, and rainfall.
Social economic sensitivity looks at demographics, tourism, export, water, energy, land values, agriculture and fisheries.
Adaptive capacity is measured by crime solution efficiency, local government performance, family savings and city savings.
"It's a year-long project where we look at 20 years of data and use it to forecast 30- to 50-year scenarios. Then we added inputs from local stakeholders through the scenario-building exercise," he explained.
The local stakeholders were composed of local government officials, the private sector, academe and non-government organizations.
Geohazard maps of Tacloban already showed how exposed the city was to danger.
"If you look at the geohazard map of Tacloban, only a small part is not red. Red meaning highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. The LGU saw that already," said Hinay.
Tacloban is bound on the east and south by water leading to Leyte Gulf and the Pacific Ocean. In the north and the west, it is bound by mountains. Thus, the city was trapped. In the face of the 15-foot-high storm surge that submerged its coastal communities, Taclobanons could not evacuate further than the mountains.
The same wall blocking their path is a danger spot in itself. Mountains often mean landslides, especially when the winds and rain were as strong as Yolanda's.
2. Land subsidence
Further making Tacloban vulnerable to flooding caused by storm surge is the fact that much of it is below sea level, said Hinay. In many places, there were also cases of land subsidence in which "sea water enters the soil, slowly eating away the coastal areas," explained Hinay.
Land subsidence also happens when humans draw water from the soil for drinking, bathing and other uses. The extraction of water creates spaces between soil particles. When the roof over these spaces cannot support all the intact soil above it, it collapses thereby lowering the level of soil on the surface.
Subsidence lowers the land surface a couple of centimeters every year. The lower the land goes, the more likely it will be inundated when sea levels rise or flooding occurs. Eventually, the land will become so low that flooding will happen even during high tide.
3. Population, urbanization
Tacloban is Eastern Visayas' migratory city, said Hinay.
"Vast lands and good weather create a migratory sink. If you have really good weather and plenty of lands, people will go to your land regardless of the situation. For example in Zamboanga, even if peace and order is bad, they still go."
Tacloban is home to around 200,000 people. A bigger population often equates to more urbanization as more people require more housing, livelihood opportunities, infrastructure and facilities. But it also means more risk.
"It causes concentrated risk. The more people will go to an area, the denser an area is, the more vulnerable to the effects of typhoons," he said.
SEVERE DAMAGE. The scene on a street just outside the Tacloban airport. Photo by Francis Malasig/EPA
High population may also mean the pace of urbanization was harder to manage and control. Despite land subsidence and the fact that Tacloban's coastal areas are below sea level, many important buildings were built right by the sea including the city hall, elementary schools, colleges and hospitals.
These could have been used as evacuation centers but because they too were close to the shore, they were among the structures first inundated by the storm surge.
But international disaster experts agree that not even the best prepared countries would have been spared by Yolanda, a storm that literally went off the charts. (READ: Conversations with disaster experts)
"Given the destructive nature with which Haiyan hit the central Philippines even the best-prepared nation would have a hard time bracing itself against the effects of such a storm," Kathryn Hawley, a disaster management expert from Asia Foundation told Rappler's Marites Vitug.
"When we try to prepare for hazard impacts as disaster managers we look to worse case scenarios but hope they never happen… When they do there are so many variables that can crumble the best-laid plans or preparation."
After survival, the focus will be on reconstruction. Hinay said the study also makes recommendations on how Tacloban can better adapt itself to more extreme weather events in the coming years.
One such recommendation is moving development to higher ground.
"Relocate higher. If they want to create coastal redevelopment, they should factor in 3 to 4-meter-high (9.8 to 13 feet) storm surges. Tacloban is one meter below sea level so you have to create coastal redevelopment that is higher than the storm surge," he explained.
He also urged the city to redefine land use based on Yolanda's devastation. Where should residences, schools, hospitals, businesses now be located?
Investing in other sources of energy may also be a good idea, he said. Tacloban's dependence on the power grid left it in the dark when Yolanda destroyed all power lines. Investing in renewable energy may help lessen this potentially fatal dependence.
"If you want your city to be more sustainable, you need renewable energy. It's more competitive, more sustainable. If you get cut off from the grid, at least the community can use renewable energy. We're also looking at resiliency of businesses and government. If there's a brown-out, they can still function and provide much-needed services if they have an alternative source of energy."
Renewable energy sources like solar panels do not need electricity to function. If they are stored in a high area in the city, safe from flooding and storm surges, it can be used to power the community using only energy from the sun.
The complete assessment study will be released end of December, along with assessments of cities Angeles, Batangas and Naga.
WWF-Philippines also made climate change assessments of Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Dagupan, Iloilo, Laoag and Zamboanga from 2011 to 2012. The studies can be viewed here. – Rappler.com
Published 12:03 PM, November 15, 2013
Updated 12:03 PM, November 15, 2013