An absolutely devastating typhoon swept through parts of the Philippines late last week. The scale of the destruction is barely imaginable.
People in the Philippines are used to typhoons, but this one, named Typhoon Haiyan, was the strongest one EVER recorded on land, according to NBC News.
Thousands of people have died and countless are still missing. And now there are new challenges to survive … for those who already survived once.
Will help get there in time?
In many areas, especially in the hardest hit city of Tacloban, there’s no clean water to drink. There’s limited food. There’s no electricity. And in many cases, there’s no way to get to these people.
The Philippines is made up of about 7,000 islands. Because they are not connected by land, getting to them is an incredible challenge.
And as military and aid workers do get there, they are finding many roads and runways destroyed by the storm.
Hospitals workers are treating ten times the amount of patients they normally do, by candlelight, because they are also without electricity.
The recovery effort in the first week is critical. People are being flown out as supplies are being flown in, but there is an enormous amount to do with time running out.
Over half a million people have had to leave their homes and nearly 10 million people are affected, according to the United Nations.
These are staggering numbers. And they don’t account for the trauma of losing loved ones and the lives people had built there.
Why so destructive and deadly?
A typhoon is the same thing as a hurricane — a powerful storm that generates incredibly strong winds — only they’re called typhoons when they happen in the West Pacific.
Super-typhoon Haiyan had winds up to as much as 235 miles per hour (378 km per hour). And it was very wide — 370 miles (595 km) across.
Unfortunately, it was at its strongest as it moved from the ocean onto land, bringing huge ocean waves with it as it did so. The 20-foot wave surges actually caused much of the damage. Because the Philippines is made up of islands and is surrounded by water, that was likely to happen.
What caused the typhoon and why so powerful?
Powerful typhoons are fairly common in that part of the world, they’d already had four this season. Warm, tropical ocean waters contribute to the strong typhoons in that region.
But most people believe that climate change is a factor as well. ”Typhoon Haiyan is another tragic example of the kinds of events that are expected to increase in frequency and severity as climate change continues to gather pace,” said Michael Delaney, the director of humanitarian aid for Oxfam America.
In the meantime, this story doesn’t even begin to tell of the ruin, heartache, and desperation in the Philippines right now. But it’s becoming a story of hope, as well, as aid from around the world begins to flow.
If you are over 13 years old, and would like to help, Oxfam is a good organization to support that is helping there right now.