Philippine President President Benigno Aquino III told CNN on Tuesday that the earlier reported estimate of 10,000 dead was “too much,” and the more likely figure is 2,000 to 2,5000.
Super Typhoon Haiyan is weakening over southern China, after cutting a path through the Southwest Pacific and into Vietnam and leaving as many as 10,000 people dead.
Haiyan arrived in the Philippines on November 7, 2013, boasting 190–195 mph sustained winds — equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane — and temporary gusts of up to 235 mph. The sustained winds were stronger than all but three tropical cyclones in world history, and stronger than any other tropical cyclone that’s ever made landfall. (“Hurricane,” “typhoon” and “cyclone” are all different regional names for the same weather phenomenon.) An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, and individual storms have killed over one thousand in the past.
According to USA Today, the Philippine military confirmed that nearly 1,000 in the country had been killed. But communication and transportation infrastructure across the Philippines’ 7,000 islands has been decimated, making a full assessment of the damage and the need for food, water, and medical attention impossible. Philippine officials said the death toll could top 10,000 before it’s all over.
“There are too many people dead,” Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, told CNN. “We have bodies in the water, bodies on the bridges, bodies on the side of the road.”
Leyte was the worst hit of the nation’s provinces, and its capital city of Tacloban — home to 200,000 — was inundated by storm surges as high as 20 feet. The waves flattened forests of palm trees, washed ships ashore, leveled buildings throughout the city, and left bodies piled up on the road sides and in the streets.
St. Paul’s Hospital in Tacloban was operating without electricity as of yesterday, as workers used head lamps for light while they provided emergency first aid. A hand-drawn sign in front of the hospital read “no admissions” and “no supplies.” No one knows yet how the smaller fishing communities that dot Leyte’s eastern coast are fairing, though in all likelihood they’ve been equally devastated.
“I don’t believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way — every single building, every single house,” U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy told USA Today. The U.S. military sent two C-130 transport planes to Tacloban, along with water, generators, and a contingent of Marines to aid in relief efforts.
A recent report by Citi Research anticipated economic damage to the region, which relies mainly on coconut and rice farming, would hit $69 million, with “massive losses” for private property.
Preparation and resiliency efforts anticipated the wind but not the water, Senior Presidential aide Rene Alemendras told the AP. As a result, many of the 800,000 people who were evacuated from the coasts to sturdier brick-and-mortar structures further inland were still left in danger. That the country is very poor and divided up into a series of small islands didn’t help evacuation efforts, as it limits the area people can be evacuated to, and the loss of communications hampered relief efforts in the storm’s immediate aftermath.
Cyclone’s draw their energy from hotter sea-surface temperatures, and from the differential between those temperatures and the much colder air at the top of the atmosphere. “We know sea-surface temperatures are warming pretty much around the planet,” Professor Will Steffen, a researcher at the ANU and member of the Climate Council, told the Sydney Morning Herald. “So that’s a pretty direct influence of climate change on the nature of the storm.”
Temperatures at the ocean surface were about 0.5 to 1 degrees Celsius above normal east of the Philippines while Haiyan was forming. Those temperatures then cooled in the storm’s wake — evidence of how the storm sucked up the heat energy.