Typhoon in the Philippines

A powerful tropical storm in the Philippines leaves thousands dead

Nov 11, 2013 | By Cameron Keady with TIME Reporting
AARON FAVILA—AP

Residents of Tacloban city observe a large ship that was washed ashore by strong waves from Typhoon Haiyan.

The Philippines is reeling from a massive typhoon that hit its eastern seaboard on Friday. The powerful storm leveled nearly everything in its path and has left a possible death toll of 10,000. Officials fear the number will rise even higher than that. Supertyphoon Haiyan, called Yolanda in the Philippines, is the strongest recorded storm to make landfall anywhere on earth. “The devastation is… I don’t have words for it,” said Philippines Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. “It’s really horrific. It’s a great human tragedy.”

Survivors walk among debris and fallen electric posts in Tacloban on November 10.
ROMEO RANOCO—REUTERS
Survivors walk among debris and fallen electric posts in Tacloban on November 10.

Site of the Storm

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, while 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.

The Philippines is no stranger to storms. Its warm ocean waters make it a prime location for them to form. On average, eight or nine tropical storms make landfall in the island country each year. But no storm has ravaged the country like Haiyan.

Haiyan barreled across the central islands of the Philippines with a storm surge of 20 feet and winds reaching 200 miles per hour. Among the areas hardest hit is the eastern province of Leyte. Its capital city, Tacloban, was almost entirely flattened. Smaller provinces are also believed to have experienced similar devastation, but are difficult for rescue teams to reach.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines deliver relief goods by helicopter to the coastal village of Capiz.
TARA YAPTARA—AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The Armed Forces of the Philippines deliver relief goods by helicopter to the coastal village of Capiz.

Aid Arrives

The Department of Social Welfare and Development says 9.5 million people have been affected by Haiyan. With power and communications down, survivors are forced to walk far distances to find help. Tacloban’s only functioning hospital has just 250 beds, and medicine is in short supply.

The U.S. military arrived Monday afternoon in Tacloban with rescue teams, and the U.K., European Union, Australia, and New Zealand have also sent help. “The U.S. government is organizing emergency shipments of critically needed material to provide shelter to the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos driven from their homes by this unprecedented typhoon,” said Secretary of State John Kerry.

Though aid has arrived in the Philippines, the work to restore the country has only just begun.