I'm located in the southern end of Negros Oriental, which was under warning signal 3 (out of 4) but we were on the edge of the storm. We got off very light. If it weren't for the news, we wouldn't have even thought that we might be affected by a typhoon.
Unfortunately, the Philippines isn't like Japan, where the country can mobilize the resources to make the country highly resistant to it's own nemesis of nature, earthquakes. Many of the people here live in bamboo / wooden structures which stand no chance against a strong typhoon. The most vulnerable are also the poorest. In Dumaguete, minimum wage is the equivalent of $6 per day, but that's a well paying job. Most businesses here use loopholes to pay employees half the minimum wage. The people who have lost their entire towns in the Philippines have no resources, nothing to eat and nowhere to go. There is no no longer a functioning economy. All they can do is wait for help.
I don't know if this has anything to do with global warning, but in the five years I have lived here, our area has been hit with two devastating typhoons in the past three years. Before that, strong typhoons hitting our area were rare. Though we dodged this bullet, the above mentioned typhoons hit us head on. If this is something that the Philippines can regularly expect due to changes in weather, then large portions of the country could become unlivable without huge changes.
This is the sort of area where we could really use some innovation. Typhoons bring a double threat of high winds and floods. Add volcanoes and earthquakes (just a few weeks ago we got hit with a 7.2 earthquake) and the Philippines is among the most dangerous places to live on the planet. We need low cost structures which can shield people from high winds, floods and earthquakes. Sure, we can hide in a shelter, but we can't deal with the possibility of losing our house and possessions every year.
Edit: Changed tornado to typhoon.Facepalm
Edit2: Recovery also can take a long time in the Philippines. Not far from where I live is an area with temporary structures (basically a squatter area) which was setup to be temporary. A year later and this area is still full. I suppose Katrina was similar with the temporary housing situation, but in this case we are talking a flimsy bamboo / wooden structure with plastic tarps on the sides. These structures could easily get wiped out by one of the 20 yearly typhoons which hit the Philippines every year.
Also, the people of New Orleans at least have government safety nets. The mayor of our city, Dumaguete, set aside something like $9,000 as an emergency fund in anticipation of Yolanda. Like I said, not a lot of resources here.
Compounding that, these strong storms are extremely hard to defend against. When I heard that Hayian was a strong Class 5 hurricane equivalent, it sent a chill down my spine. Perspective: I recall a homeowner returning to a non-waterfront home after one of the "big" Class 4's that hit southern Florida. His house was nominally still standing. The roof was gone, nothing was left inside except stick-sized debris. The non-support walls, framing, even the plumbing had all been destroyed. The paint had been scoured off of the cinderblock exterior support walls.
It's difficult to get one's head around the power and destructive capability of these storms.
Cinder blocks - yes, I believe that is mostly what they do there.
It is possible to adapt to typhoons. It does require resources.
I find it difficult to live in a wooden structure Stateside whenever storms arise. Ignorance is bliss.
The typhoon past us with about a distance of 190km from the eye and was anticipated to hit us first. We were issued with a signal 4 warning at Category 5 as it passed the northern parts around 2-3am. Yolanda didn't really make an real impact on the island - We only lost communications and electricity from about 9pm to 6pm the next day, had some minor roads flooded and little damage on property.
My best guess is that we got the backspin of the storm and was left with out great damage.
Before the storm past, tourists were leaving, locals were deciding to either stay or evacuate to higher grounds inland and expats tried to follow. There was problems leaving the island by boat because of the big waves and airplanes had already aborted landing on Monday.
The risk was that either being hit by mudslides because of the expected 100mm rainfall, or being trapped inside of your house due the strong winds and storm surge.
Everyone seemed well informed and took appropriate action well before Yolanda would possibly hit us. We stocked up on water and food enough for a couple of days on Wednesday, on Thursday the concrete house i'm staying at got packed with people trying to get safe/shelter.
At night, Yolanda made its presence with wind and heavy rain, but thanks to low tide, we where lucky to stay un-flooded by the additional (reported) 5.5m sea-level rise.
A few hours later, it hit Tacloban/Samar (200km from us) and destroyed a lot in its path. The towns/islands where effected so hard because of high tide, which enabled the flooding.
I want to make clear that, the Government/Community/WeatherStations did a great job informing the residencies about the possible dangers.
A lot of people did evacuate, but as I said before, there was only choices between uncertainty available. I will mention that the locals here seem to have become accustom to the weather due to the ~20 typhoons/storms per year, and also seem to take it a bit lighter then they sometimes should. The weather can shift and the typhoons direction can change in an instant, hitting the least expected areas.
Im just hoping that the incoming storm wont make to difficult for the Philippines to recover! We are already preparing and are discussing possible options/evacuation plans.
My thoughts goes to those who have lost or are missing family and friends.
(I was looking at being in Cebu or Leyte for diving last week, but my ear was slightly sore so I went to Bangkok first instead. Pretty happy about that.)
Rather than compare anecdotes though, look at some actual data: http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2012/results/
(USA is ranked 17; Philippines is 105. Lower is better.)
I've always had this theory that one at least partial explanation for the differing economic states of different cultures is ability to properly assess risks and prepare for them accordingly. If every <x> years a typhoon is going to come along and wipe out <y>% of your infrastructure putting the affected regions of the country back to square one yet again, coming up with a workable solution to that should be a super high priority. If your work is constantly going into relatively persistent projects and you can minimize setbacks, standard of living constantly increases over time and generations.
Cindercrete blocks are the first thing that come to my mind, but maybe that's too expensive? Could some sort of reinforcement mechanism (perhaps anchored to the ground, providing strength but still allowing movement/flexibility) for bamboo huts be designed that uses affordable cabling such that they could withstand the force without disintegrating?
Personally, I'd be more likely to donate money if there was a specific engineering cause like this that I knew it was going to, rather than just general relief to recreate the same environment that will simply be wiped out again next time. Wrong way to think perhaps, but so be it. Charity success is partially a marketing problem, and this is a way to approach it that I think would have some success. If you could sponsor a specific family (as you can with children in Africa) for some housing upgrades, and get some photos in return, I think a lot of people over here with excess money might share a bit of it.
Yes, obviously I don't know all the parameters involved, and it's easy for me as a rich white male on the other side of the world to armchair quarterback, but I simply don't believe that everything that can be done is being done - over here we have our own solvable problems that we will never solve, for different reasons, so I don't think it's racist to believe that just perhaps, people in the Phillipines aren't undertaking the 100% optimal solution to their problems.
EDIT: I read below:
It's worth reiterating that for all the obvious destructive power of sustained wind speeds of almost 200mph, it was the associated storm surge – the rush of water into coastal areas – which caused the worst damage in Tacloban, and most likely many of the deaths. The storm surge in Tacloban was estimated at 6m, sweeping away even concrete buildings, and bringing the sort of devastation so reminiscent of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
Storm surges washing away even concrete structures.....now that's depressing. So now what? Can we affordably elevate everyone's shelter? But 6 metres? Not a chance. If 6m stomr surges are somewhat common, I just don't know how that are can be considered habitable. I have no idea if there is somewhere else those people could be relocated to. Oh man it's a tough problem.
This is correct. Yet Miami is hit by a hurricane every seven years on average, and they don't manage to move the power lines underground, instead preferring to hang the wire above ground again every time it's blown down, and charging the population for the privilege of having electric power. They also rebuilt New Orleans in areas where they shouldn't, and still cannot put proper sea defenses in where they ought to.
But when Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, was hit in 1970 by the great 1970 cyclone, the incident that triggered Independence, they managed to put in concrete storm shelters. These things helped to save many lives in the subsequent years.
Guys, anyone at home? Civil defense is a political problem, it seems.
Another problem for poor nations is the initial capital cost complicating the decision of building cheap and fragile vs expensive and resilient. Sometimes they simply don't have the money. Sometimes they do but the genuine uncertainty of another typhoon of this magnitude makes it too difficult to make the commitment. Other times they're perhaps not even thinking in this way at all.
I don't think this is an engineering problem. This is a political issue - it would be too difficult to find the money for the conversion, even more so, since in the US taxes are locally raised and spent. Try finding sufficient funds to get the work done in, say, Opa-Locka, or try to raise funds in Palmetto Bay to pay for Homestead.
Sea level goes up in a hurricane, way up. And the only thing worse than freshwater flood for underground wires is saltwater. And if the ground mounted transformers are flooded and destroyed you're losing power. And once power is cut, the power co can't just flip a switch without burning down the whole city, because flood damage means 0.1% of houses will catch fire and the fire dept is already busy with their own issues not to mention trees in the road and such.
It's a fantastic book. I probably re-reread it once a year.
Edit: Yep, that's you. I have you in my contacts list. I will send you another email. ;)
Edit Edit: And yes, for those of you reading this comment, this is an indication of how small the tech world here is, even in a decent sized city in the Philippines.
Nature disasters are just side show in human life at this point.
In a disaster of this nature, supply lines are wiped out. Hospitals are gone. First responders, to the extent there are any, are overwhelmed. It's hard to get food. Sanitary systems, to the extent they existed in the first place, are gone. Communication systems are gone. This is all going to have incredible impact, even in a less-developed country. The disaster affects entire communities for several years at least. No car wreck has this sort of impact.
Your community, your system, is able to absorb the deaths which happen within that community. People in your community die from old age, traffic accidents, disease and many other ways, but the wheels of the system keep spinning. In the case of the Philippines, the recent tsunamis and other large scale natural disasters, entire communities were obliterated. These systems have completely broken down. In Leyte, 10,000 people died, but the system which supported tens of thousands more living is broken.
The local economy for many of these people has been pushed back to the stone ages. The rich still have their bank accounts intact. They can jump on a plane and start over somewhere else. The poor don't have this option. There is no functioning system there to support the people who have to stay there. They have nothing to eat, no money for medicine, nowhere to live and they are completely dependent on a government with relatively little resources. Restoring this system will take months if not years. Many people will never fully recover. Future generations will get held back from what they could have been. There's not much of a safety net here.
ETA: And sure, the ripples of this shock won't go much further than the borders of the Philippines. But I think Fukishima might be a good counter to your "natural disasters as a side show" argument. We don't yet know how much this disaster will affect us. It could do serious long term damage to the ecosystem of the Pacific ocean. Could the world see mass cancer from eating fish in the Pacific ocean?
This is equivalent the population to small neighborhood all dying at once. In addition to destruction caused.
Regardless of the cause, large amounts of loss of human life in a single event are still considered significant. The reverberating effects throughout the neighboring communities are perhaps most noticeable. You are removing an entire node from a graph, rather than individual leaves.
In other words, the deaths in the Philippines are bad enough, but there are millions of people still alive and put into great distress as we speak. And it's not as if it's their fault (which was the argument brought up for Katrina as well...), it's not as if they can be safe if they move to Japan (as if there were either the funding or political will for that).
The same is in this situation - while help is needed in restoring the communities and sheltering survivors; in the long run anyway those "common killers" should be a priority for the same Philippines communitities, not overly focusing on typhoon-safety.
And the 10 000 dead isn't the number that should be emphasised above others - the main pain in this disaster is the millions of wounded and displaced; I wouldn't be surprised if the death toll of these displacement consequences (malnutrition, disease, etc) is larger than from the initial impact.
If disaster taps on your neighborhood window, I suspect you would sing a different tune.
Because the people who died were poor, this accident adds net positive emotional entertainment value to the life of typical consumer.
Not to be cynical, but I imagine if they were rich celebrities it'd add even more dubious 'entertainment' value.
Fixed that for you.