Typhoon Mangkhut, alternatively titled as Typhoon Ompong in the Philippines, was the strongest storm on the planet in 2018 so far. With winds peaking at 180 mph, the typhoon was the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane when it first struck land, causing devastation for over four million people in its path.
Mangkhut’s path crossed over much of Southeast Asia, hitting the Philippines on the 15th of September and striking Hong Kong on September 16th, before reaching Mainland China and dissipating. Typhoon Ompong was one of the strongest typhoons the Philippines has been hit with since Haiyan in 2013, and has, as of a report by Rapplier on September 19th, directly caused the deaths of 81 people in the Philippines. Even after the direct disaster, landslides still have the possibility of being triggered by the typhoon in some regions, especially in the Cordillera Administrative Region, where 54 missing persons have been reported missing likely due to landslides. In Hong Kong, Meteorologists have deemed Mangkhut as the most intense storm since records of Typhoons began in 1946. The Typhoon 10 Signal, the strongest typhoon magnitude, was set in place by the Hong Kong Observatory from 9:40 am until 7:40 pm on that Sunday. No deaths were reported from Hong Kong, but the government stated that more than 400 people sought medical aid from Mangkhut. As the typhoon headed into Guangdong Province or China, it caused four known casualties, and, as Hong Kong, left much of the city in ruins. The nearby island city of Macau was also affected by Mangkhut, which left more than 20,000 people without electricity and experienced major flooding.
Repairs in Hong Kong are estimated to take millions. Shattered windows, ruined construction, and upturned trees and rubble on most streets all factor into this financial need. Mangkhut also takes a toll on land availability, with more than 46,000 uprooted trees already taking up landfills the size of 12 football fields. The Typhoon also caused damage for a major sewer plant in Hong Kong, which will not be restored until the end of the year, causing concern about health and safety for the population. However, the Philippines may be much worse for wear in the road of recovery. The Phillipines faces similar circumstances of ruined buildings and wood debris, but most of the recovery effort is through volunteer organizations and the residents themselves, unlike in Hong Kong where the government and repair crews are leading the charge.Moreover, Hong Kong is more built for storm and typhoon weather, with drains and other ventilation systems set up throughout the city to prevent major flooding and landslide. The Philippines is much less well equipped to deal with storm and typhoon weather, being much more rural and agriculture based. The rural residents of the Philippines, especially farmers, feel the despair of Mangkhut acutely, with damage to crops and buildings having a severe and devastating effects on their lives financially. Yet these families have to rely on themselves to rebuild their lives. “Who knows if the government will help?” Said Maria, the daughter of Jerry Serrano, a farmer, in an interview with The Guardian, “The people most affected by the typhoons are the farmers, they have lost everything.” The Philippine president, Duterte, has made efforts to oversee rescue operations in heavily affected areas, yet that is not to say that every resident in each region will receive the help that they truly need. Many non-governmental organizations are currently trying to make up for what the government may lack, organizations such as CARE, which has provided disaster relief for the Philippines since 1949, Oxfam, Relief International, and ShelterBox being only a few of the many. Accounts of Red Cross teams, made up of staff and volunteers, in the region of Luzon were of praise for the efficiency and effectiveness of response. Tagacay, a local of the region told the IFRC, International Association of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, that : “when we saw that the Red Cross had deployed staff that came all the way from Manila with all these assets, we were relieved that we didn’t have to do this alone. We are very grateful for the support.”
With natural disasters becoming more and more of a common occurrence, it is important for us as global citizens to be aware of them and the disastrous effects they have on people’s lives around the world. Most NGOs accept monetary donations, so we in the US can still contribute to relief efforts despite the long distance.