Philippines Hit with Sixth Storm in Five Weeks

Graphic by Annabel Driussi for ODP

by Ashira Morris, ODP Contributing Writer

Just a week and a half after a super typhoon hit the Philippines, the island nation was pummeled with heavy rains from Typhoon Vamco yesterday. The storm hit the main island of Luzon, wiping out power for nearly 2 million homes in the capital city of Manila and surrounding provinces. The typhoon, whose strength was the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane, was the sixth storm in five weeks to hit the Philippines

Why This Matters: Back-to-back storms mean it’s difficult if not impossible for people to recover from the previous damage before a new typhoon arrives. The power grids and communication lines weren’t fully restored when this week’s storm hit, and residents are fatigued by the ongoing storms. 

I’m so exhausted,” a resident, Shirley Tapel, told broadcaster ABS-CBN. “We clean up and prepare . . . then suddenly there’s a new storm. We have to pack up and move again.”

The Philippines is already in a seismically active area where earthquakes, landslides, typhoons happen regularly. Now climate change is making tropical storms more frequent and more intense. As the New York Times reported following the super typhoon earlier this month, scientists say it is one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet.

Natural Disasters During COVID: These relentless storms are happening on top of the ongoing COVID pandemic. The Philippines’ evacuation centers were already crowded before Typhoon Vamco hit. The country now has more than 400,000 cases, second only to Indonesia in Southeast Asia. 

It’s critical to quickly begin rebuilding and help people recover after a devastating typhoon, but these non-stop storms are slamming our communities during a deadly pandemic, making this one of the most complicated disaster responses ever,” Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said in a statement.  

Storms Stronger for Longer: There’s been plenty of research on tropical storms gaining intensity over warmer waters, but a new study shows that storms today weaken more slowly as they continue to move over land. The study found in the 24 hours after making landfall, storms 50 years ago would lose three-quarters of their intensity. Today’s storms only lose about half. One of the lead researchers thinks that “there may very well be a climatic link.” They posit that even after moving off of the ocean, the warmer waters keep more moisture in the system, making it slower to weaken.

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