Disaster does strike twice. Just four weeks ago, a magnitude 7.2 quake had struck the central region of Philippines, an island nation in the Pacific. Now, a disaster much worse has brought the country to its knees.
Supertyphoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines at 5 am last Friday. The monstrous Category 5 storm with a diameter almost the size of the country had been closely tracked by meteorologists. People were warned to stay indoors and away from the coast. No one anticipated what happened next.
Winds blowing at speeds of 170 miles/hour sent walls of seawater pouring into unsuspecting towns and villages, like a tsunami. Everything was washed away as people helplessly clung on to poles and trees. When the waters receded, it had left a trail of destruction - nearly 10,000 estimated lives lost in one town alone. A weakened storm continued on to Vietnam where the damage is minimal.
What Is A Typhoon?
Typhoon is just another name for tropical storms. When the winds in a storm reach at least 74 miles an hour, it is called a “hurricane” in the Americas, a “cyclone” near the Indian peninsula, and a “typhoon” in the eastern Pacific.
They are all children of the tropics, and hence called “tropical storms.” This is how they are born: trade winds from the north meet those from the south and cause disturbances. These disturbances gain energy from the warm tropical waters, causing what is called a depression – an area of low air pressure, where the warm air has risen up. This movement of air causes storms with winds up to 38 miles and hour.
As the depression moves over water, it gains in strength. When the winds are above 39 miles an hour, it is called a tropical storm. This is when it gets a name. It keeps moving over the oceans, gathering strength, gathering speed. Haiyan is a powerful storm that has formed well after the end of the typhoon season on Nov 1. Scientists blame warming ocean waters for the intensity and duration of storms.
A Country Devastated
Government officials are trying their best to reach towns cut off by roads and electricity. Many malls and shops are being looted as people scavenge for food and water to survive. The U.S government has extended humanitarian aid, as well as U.S marines stationed in Japan have arrived on the island to help in the relief efforts. Help is also pouring in from Britain and other countries.
President Benigno Aquino was elected last year, and this storm will be a test of his Presidency. Unfortunately for Philippines, another smaller depression is heading for the southern part of the country. This will make relief and rescue efforts harder.