12
Nov
Children peek out from their makeshift shelter in Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan tore through eastern and central Philippines on November 10th

Children peek out from their makeshift shelter in Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan tore through eastern and central Philippines on November 10th

Weather forecasters had given warning before Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines that the storm was extraordinarily powerful. That it was extraordinarily destructive became clear to all when the typhoon landed on the east coast November 8th. Three days later it has become apparent that the storm was also extraordinarily deadly; the survivors will require an colossal relief effort just to stay alive.

Before the typhoon landed, meteorologists had detected wind speeds of 313kph (194mph) near the centre, gusting up to 378kph, making it one of the strongest storms ever recorded. It whipped up giant waves that crashed ashore. Between them, the wind and waves ploughed through coastal communities, crushing buildings as if they were cardboard, tossing boats and cars around like toys and sweeping people to their deaths. The storm charged across the middle of country from east to west, drenching everything in its path with driving rain. Homes and crops that the wind failed to destroy were left at the mercy of flooding and landslides brought on by the rain.

A picture of the amount of death and destruction caused began to emerge only after the storm had swept out over the South China Sea, heading towards Vietnam. Witnesses spoke of corpses littering the wrecked city of Tacloban, on the east coast, which felt the full force of the storm. They spoke of dazed survivors wandering streets strewn with debris, begging for help. “From the shore and moving a kilometre inland, there are no structures standing. It was like a tsunami,” said the interior secretary, Manuel Roxas, after inspecting the destruction from a helicopter. “I don’t know how to describe what I saw.”

The responsible authorities were powerless to find out the extent of the disaster, let alone bring relief. In Tacloban and elsewhere, the electricity supply, the water supply and telephone communications were among the first casualties. The local authorities were unable to help survivors as public servants were unable to report for duty. Fallen trees and power lines had blocked roads and floods had swept away bridges. More out-of-the-way places were beyond help. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on November 11, 2013.

 

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