Lessons learned after super typhoon Megi

October 25, 2010

The roof flies off a house as super typhoon Megi, known locally as Juan, hits Ilagan City, Isabela province, northern Philippines October 18, 2010.  REUTERS/Stringer

I didn’t really know what to expect on the eight-hour drive up to Isabela province in the northeast of Luzon island after it was hit by Megi, a super typhoon with winds in excess of 250 kph (155 mph).

I knew it was a strong typhoon – the strongest in the world this year – but even so, standing in Cauyan town, I was shocked. The scale of devastation was enormous and it’s obvious why a state of calamity has been declared.

An aerial view of houses and rooftops that were damaged two days after typhoon Megi hit the shoreline of Palanan town, Isabela province October 20, 2010.  REUTERS/Francis Dy-Courtesy of Isabela Governor Office/Handou

As a Filipino, I’ve experienced many typhoons – they are a fact of life here, with more than 20 a year hitting the country on average. Last year, Manila was flooded by a once-in-a-lifetime storm. But this was different.

Thousands of houses and huts were knocked down. People searched through the remains of where they once lived, looking for their valuables, their mementos, and anything that could be salvaged to use in the rebuilding process.

Beverly Adora, 20, dries her photographs after their house were ruined by Typhoon Megi in Ilagan town, Isabela province, north of Manila October 21, 2010.  REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Cars were blown to the sides of roads and motorized three-wheelers had been hurled into flattened rice fields. Across the northern provinces more than 350,000 tonnes of rice, about five percent of the country’s December quarter harvest, had been destroyed.

Residents inspect a car damaged after Typhoon Megi hit the town of Ilagan, Isabela province, north of Manila, October 19, 2010.  REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Nothing was spared – schools, government buildings and churches carry scars of Megi, or Juan as the storm was named in the Philippines. Fallen trees lie across roads, fields and houses. Power lines were blown down, so there is no power, and communication channels were knocked out.

A resident cooks rice at a damaged house after Typhoon Megi hit the town of Ilagan, Isabela province, north of Manila October 19, 2010.  REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Coastal towns were cut off completely. It would take two days for disaster officials to get access to the affected region and the story there is the same. Massive losses of housing and widespread devastation.

On Thursday, President Benigno Aquino will make an inspection by air and help distribute relief goods to typhoon victims. The government says nearly 1.7 million people were directly affected by Megi and the bill for the damage to agriculture and infrastructure is estimated at 8.3 billion pesos (nearly $200 million).

A Cessna aircraft turned upside down is seen in this aerial view after super typhoon Megi hit the coastal town of Maconacon, Isabela province, north of Manila October 20, 2010.  REUTERS/Albert Garcia/Pool

Megi killed at least 33 Filipinos. So far, quite amazingly given the destruction I saw, there have been only three deaths recorded in the eastern provinces where the typhoon first hit, and the national total is also relatively low.

In July, a smaller typhoon changed direction unexpectedly and hit Manila. More than 100 people died and power supplies to the city were cut. Aquino sacked the chief forecaster and admonished the emergency services for their preparation.

This time things were different. In the days leading up to Megi’s expected impact, there were regular updates on its path and strength from weather forecasters. Storm warnings were raised early and disaster management agencies prepared evacuation centers and people in at-risk areas were evacuated.

Maybe lessons were learned.

One comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Hope international relief comes quickly

Posted by pereiraarvindin | Report as abusive