A powerful storm called a typhoon slammed the Southeast Asian island nation of the Philippines on November 8. Typhoons are hurricanes that occur over the Indian or Pacific Ocean. These swirling storms have wind speeds of 74 miles per hour or more. This particular storm, named Typhoon Haiyan, was extremely deadly, killing thousands of people and forcing more than 600,000 to leave their homes.
Haiyan packed wind gusts of about 195 mph and caused ocean waters to rise as high as 20 feet, washing away homes and buildings and completely destroying some cities and coastal villages.
Officials won’t know the full extent of Haiyan’s destruction until rescue workers can reach remote villages along the coast that have been cut off by flooding and landslides. They are hoping that the number of dead will be lower than current estimates once rescuers start to find some of the missing people. But in all, the storm has affected the lives of 9.5 million people in the Philippines.
A STATE OF PANIC
Most of the deaths occurred in the city of Tacloban on Leyte Island, which was hit the hardest by the storm. According to local police, Haiyan destroyed about 80 percent of the buildings there, including schools, gymnasiums, and other places that had been set up as evacuation centers.
Now the city is in a state of chaos, as survivors have begun looting grocery stores, malls, and gas stations for food, medicine, fuel, and other necessities. About 200 police officers have been sent to Tacloban to try to restore order.
“People are desperate,” Philippines defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters. “There is no power, no water, nothing.”
Aid organizations such as UNICEF, World Vision, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as government agencies, have sprung into action, sending food, water, and medical supplies to the Philippines. The U.S. government has also sent ships and aircraft carrying emergency supplies. But getting these items to the people who need them is a struggle, because roads, bridges, airports, and phone systems have been destroyed.
Thousands of volunteers from various aid agencies have also gone to the Philippines to help with search-and-rescue efforts. About 90 U.S. Marines and sailors were sent to help, and President Barack Obama has vowed to do more.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the millions of people affected by this devastating storm,” the President says.
By Monday, Typhoon Haiyan had weakened and reached Vietnam after crossing the South China Sea. Though hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated (asked to leave their homes) in Vietnam, no serious damage or injuries have been reported there as a result of the storm.