Fallen trees, torn roads and 42 landslides – the Philippine archipelago was hit with what the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) labels the strongest tropical cyclone the world has faced so far, this year. Typhoon Mangkhut started at Baggo, at around 0:14 (local time) on Saturday and bulldozed from east to west across the north of Luzon at 185km/h. Mangkhut then proceeded to downgrade from a super typhoon as it headed west, eventually leaving the country after some 20 hours.
Mangkhut recalls devastating memories of Typhoon Haiyan back in 2013, which painfully took 7000 lives. Having learnt from their experience with Haiyan, the Philippine government implemented practical measures to restrict sea and air travel, in addition to forewarning the vulnerable provinces that stood in Mangkhut’s projected path.
Despite careful preparations, damage was inevitable given the scale of the storm. Sewage systems were ravaged by flood waters and two rescuers, while attempting to render aid to those trapped in a landslide, have died. Additionally, an evacuation center in the coastal town of Aparri is reported to have been completely destroyed and communication networks have been disrupted in most areas hit by the typhoon.
Is it over?
Not yet. The typhoon transformed back into a super typhoon upon reaching the shores of Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon, leaving the country in tatters. The storm then continued through and is now on coast of Southern China. By now, Mangkhut has degraded into what is called a “tropical storm” and we can only hope it gets better from here.
Since the hit, Chinese authorities have been triggered to raise the storm alerts to yellow (the second level on the four-tier warning system) and in a bid to similarly restrict travel, cancelled high-speed rail services as reported by the Chinese local media.
Mangkhut serves as a reminder for governments on the importance of disaster mitigation and emergency management, especially when so many lives are at stake. At the same time, one can consider if these natural disasters, which are increasing in frequency and intensity, are truly “natural” disasters, or a result of our environmental negligence.