A Powerful Storm

Rescue efforts are underway after a typhoon paves a destructive path through parts of China, Taiwan, and the Philippines

Sep 23, 2013 | By Cameron Keady with AP reporting
TED ALJIBE—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Rescuers pull a flood victim to safety in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

On Sunday night, a powerful typhoon slammed into southern China, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 25 people. The storm forced hundreds of flight cancellations and shut down train lines and boat services before it weakened on Monday morning.

Vehicles trek through floodwaters in China's Guangdong province, which was hardest hit by Typhoon Usagi.
AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Vehicles trek through floodwaters in China's Guangdong province, which was hardest hit by Typhoon Usagi.

Path of Destruction

The typhoon has been named Usagi—the Japanese word for rabbit. A typhoon is a tropical storm with winds stronger than 74 miles per hour. It is the same as a hurricane, but scientists call the storms different names depending on where they occur. A typhoon forms over the northwestern Pacific Ocean, whereas a hurricane is born in the Atlantic Ocean or the northeastern or southern Pacific Ocean. These storms form when tropical winds gather moisture as they pass over water that is at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Usagi tore through the Luzon Strait on Saturday with gusts of up to 132 miles per hour. The Luzon Strait is the narrow waterway that separates Taiwan from the Philippines. Though both island countries were spared the full force of Usagi’s winds, the Philippines suffered at least eight casualties, and Taiwan authorities reported nine people injured by falling trees.

The typhoon made landfall in China’s Guangdong province late on Sunday evening. Guandong is located about 87 miles northeast of Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. All flights to and from the major metropolis were cancelled, leaving many passengers stranded after traveling for the Chinese mid-autumn festival. Shanwei, in Guangdong, was the worst-hit city. Winds of 109 miles per hour blew cars off the road, and in some areas electricity and water supplies were cut off.

Picking Up the Pieces

Authorities in the affected areas of Taiwan, the Philippines, and China have executed emergency response plans to cope with the storm’s damage. According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, Usagi has affected about 5.5 million people, and has destroyed more than 8,000 homes.

"This is the strongest storm we have seen in the past 30 years,” a Shanwei resident told Xinhua. “It is really terrible." The worst is over, but the long road to recovery has just begun.