Case study: Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan was a tropical cyclone that affected the Philippines in South East Asia in November 2013. It was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded with winds of 313 km/h. In some areas, 281.9 mm of rainfall was recorded, much of which fell in under 12 hours. Waves of up to 7 m in height battered the coast. The Philippines is a fairly poor part of the world with minimal investment in prediction, planning and protection schemes.

Typhoon Haiyan started over the Philippines at 9am Friday, moved over the South China Sea by 9am Saturday, and moved over Cambodia, Vietnam and China by 9am Sunday.

Typhoon Haiyan had significant economic, social and environmental impact.

Impacts

Economic impacts

  • The overall economic impact of Typhoon Haiyan is estimated at $5.8 billion (£3.83 billion).
  • Six million workers lost their sources of income.
  • Major rice, corn and sugar-producing areas for the Philippines were destroyed affecting the country's international trade and farmers' incomes.
  • Tacloban's city airport was severely damaged, affecting business and tourism.
  • Fishing communities were severely affected with the storm destroying 30,000 boats and associated equipment.

Social impacts

  • More than 7,000 people were killed by Typhoon Haiyan.
  • 1.9 million people were left homeless and more than 6,000,000 displaced.
  • There were outbreaks of disease due to the lack of sanitation, food, water, shelter, and medication.
  • Less affected areas reported that their populations more than doubled after the typhoon with the influx of refugees.
  • The Tacloban city government was devastated, with only 70 people at work in the immediate days after the disaster compared to 2,500 normally. Many were killed, injured, lost family or were simply too traumatised to work.
  • In the city of Tacloban, widespread looting took place in the days following the typhoon.

Environmental impacts

  • Widespread floods damaged and in many cases destroyed homes and businesses in coastal areas.
  • The Philippine government estimated that about 71,000 hectares of farmland was affected.
  • Thousands of trees were uprooted leading to a massive release of carbon dioxide and loss of habitat with resulting effects on wildlife.
  • Flooding knocked over Power Barge 103 causing an oil spill affecting mangrove ecosystems.
  • Major roads were blocked by trees, and were impassable.
Destroyed houses in the city of Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan
Destroyed houses in the city of Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan

Responses

Even though the loss of life was significant, it could have been much worse if not for the efforts of PAGASA, the Philippines' meteorological agency. It broadcast warnings two days before Typhoon Haiyan hit, leading to the evacuation of approximately 750,000 residents.

The Philippines formally declared 'A State of National Calamity' and asked for international help, one day after Typhoon Haiyan hit the country.

The UK government provided food, shelter, clean water, medicine and other supplies for up to 800,000 victims.

Several charities provided emergency aid such as water, food and shelter. In the longer term, they are helping people get their livelihoods back, for example by repairing fishing boats or distributing rice seeds.

The United Nations launched an international aid appeal in December 2013 for £480 million to finance the humanitarian relief effort for 2014.

In 2014, the Philippines commissioned billboards in some of the world's prime advertising sites such as New York's Times Square and London's Piccadilly Circus to thank people for their help after Typhoon Haiyan.

Philippines armed forces and volunteers unload sacks of rice
Philippines armed forces and volunteers unload sacks of rice