Haiyan officially deadliest storm in Philippines history with 5209 people killed.
Some 30 storms of varying intensity have formed in the Western Pacific region in 2013 and nearly 10 of these have crossed the Philippines or come near. People in the Philippines and this part of the Pacific are entirely used to tropical cyclones which is perhaps why so many so sadly did not heed warnings this time, choosing instead to sit it out in their homes. It is also dreadfully ironic that perhaps the welcome recent expansion of a more populous middle class in LIC’s such as the Philippines meant that people may possibly have felt safer in their new concrete homes than they may previously would have done in simpler shacks or self-built dwellings. The storm surge would have meant they were trapped in a deadly and terrifying “washing machine” inside their own home rather than making the journey to shelters on higher ground given the warnings to evacuate low lying coastal districts. This, of course, is unsupported conjecture but was mentioned today by a previous resident of Tacloban interviewed on BBC Radio 4.
Haiyan was spotted before the 3 November when a cluster of intense thunderstorms began to rotate near the central Pacific Micronesia islands. At this point it became a Tropical depression, the weakest status for a cyclone. Rotation is the precursor for hurricane formation which is why hurricanes / typhoons never occur on the Equator due to the zero Coriolis (spinning effect) near the low latitudes.
During the next 3 days the storm traveled 2000 miles to the west, varying in intensity but staying below supertyphoon status. Nevertheless, the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre based in Pearl Harbour was monitoring it and several storm chasers and camera crews chose to fly direct to the line of fire in Tacloban.
So, the Philippines may have been unlucky this time because the Haiyan / Yolanda reached maximum intensity as a Cat 5 supertyphoon just before it made landfall and, due to the very warm sea surface temperatures to the east of the Philippines at the end of the summer, it did not weaken at all.
This led to the ferocious winds exceeding gusts of 200 mph and massive storm surge of some 6m that hit Tacloban and regions around there.
On the other hand, if Haiyan had been a terrorist attack: we knew his precise location, direction and potential threat several DAYS beforehand and we knew that Tacloban was staring down the barrel of this most unprecedented attack at least 48 hours before Haiyan unleashed with such ferocity.
With masses of technology already invested in weather prediction, the challenge for this century is to get appropriate, meaningful and timely warnings to people on the ground so they can react accordingly. This will mean education and responsible leadership.
Tacloban and the Philippines more widely, is known to be exposed to the potential for typhoon damage, they experience storms frequently. Nevetherless, it is the lack of human planning and preparation that made her so vulnerable this time.
The picture below of the father carrying his child is so distressing that it should perhaps not be on this blog, but it might help us to understand the immeasurable impact this massive storm has had on real people. Social media has made the world SO small now, allowing us to communicate with and get to know more about individuals who live across the planet than sometimes live across the street. It means that the people in these photos should, more than ever, be seen as our neighbours.
Here is an excellent explanation from the BBC
More on hurricane / typhoon formation here: this is old but a good outline of hurricane formation:
Notes and links on RESPONSES and more long term impacts
6 days later:
PH Govt now facing criticism as “despair and chaos” descend over Tacloban and effected areas.
Tonnes of aid remains undelivered due to Govt inefficiency? No large scale food distribution until now.
US Military / US Marine Corps arrive in force with aircraft carrier George Washington and other vessels with helicopters to rapidly deliver aid. US have taken control. There is a dramatic change on the streets with dead being collected now, 6 Days later.
A superb article here : are events like Haiyan just “acts of God” or partly “acts of Man”? http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/14/typhoon-haiyan-philippines-disasters-act-of-god
Psychological damage http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25047459
Good summary on management of aftermath and aid and reconstruction: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24927349 http://ph.news.yahoo.com/philippines-typhoon-survivors-determined-hope-064404511.html