On the final day of 2013, I wanted to check-in on the recovery efforts following the year’s most deadly disaster: Super Typhoon Haiyan (also called Yolanda).
The Category 5 storm was a record-shattering event in terms of tropical cyclone dynamics. It was the most intense storm, wind-speed wise, to make landfall in recorded history. It retained its peak intensity for nearly two days, one of the longest times ever recorded. It was the most intense tropical cyclone of the year. The related storm surge, the high level of sea rise augmented by intense winds observed during such storms, reached unheard of heights in the Philippines.
But beyond the earth science, this storm was record setting in an uglier way that is only now coming into better focus: damage, death, devastation.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ latest report, released today, the storm has claimed 6,155 lives and 1,785 people remain missing. Over 1,000 of those dead bodies remain unburied, according to the news source AFP. Swiss Re, a large reinsurance company, said that Haiyan was the most deadly natural event of the year.
The online blog Weather Underground estimates Haiyan is one of the deadliest—if not the deadliest—tropical cyclone to plague the archipelago in recent decades. The only other hurricane to come close in terms of staggering death toll struck in November 1991. Called Tropical Cyclone Thelma, or Uring depending on the location, it resulted in between 5,000-8,000 deaths.
For the November storm, strong winds tore off roofs, turned over cars, and downed trees. Flooding damaged buildings and washed away roads. The result in terms of money? Total losses, also categorized as economic losses by the insurance industry, are at around $6.5-14.5 billion and insured losses are somewhere between $300-700 million, according to the Boston-based catastrophe modeling company AIR Worldwide. In other words, there was a lot of damage, but very little of the things damaged, especially houses, were insured.
Full disclosure: I worked at AIR Worldwide for two years as a technical writer.
Here are a few more staggering damage-related statistics from the recent UN report:
– 4.1 million people were displaced.
– Around 1,127,041 million houses were damaged, of which over 500,000 were destroyed. To date, self-recovery support has only reached nearly 30,000 households and more than 324,000 have received basic emergency shelter materials.
– Almost 2,000 cases of acute malnutrition in women and kids has been recorded.
But do not despair! Progress is being made thanks to the approximately 5,300 aid workers on the case. The Financial Tracking Service data shows that US $582 has been contributed to the storm response effort, meaning that 39% of total funds allocated for recovery have been filed. This has translated into hundreds of thousands getting food and water, doctor visits, temporary emergency shelter, and supplies for rebuilding homes.
And here is perhaps the most uplifting news of all: for kids in the areas impacted, 2014 promises a new beginning with schools set to reopen Monday, January 6.