Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society

Typhoon Haiyan November 2013


Typhoon Haiyan November 2013

Before we start, remember a typhoon is the same as a hurricane but in the western Pacific Ocean while a hurricane is in the eastern Pacific and Atlantic. We choose to discuss Typhoon Haiyan (also called Yolanda) because it was the most devastating tropical storm of the last century in terms of damage and death toll. The storm was also one of the most powerful ever with sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts up to 235 mph when it came ashore on the eastern part of Samar Island in the central Philippines. The category 5 super typhoon had previously hit the island of Palau and would go on to impact Vietnam and China, but it was the Philippines where most of the damage occurred.

Haiyan came ashore on the eastern Samar island on 7 November 2013. Damage on the islands of Samar and Leyte was absolutely catastrophic, but other islands including Cebu and Bohol were hit very hard. On Samar and Leyte a storm surge of up to 5 meters (17 feet) and waves up to 6 meters (20 feet) were recorded and rainfall up to 0.3 meters (a foot) fell in a day. The damage was just terrible in the low lying Tacloban City where flooding extended up to a kilometer inland and 90 percent of the city was destroyed. Many people in Tacloban drowned in rapidly rising floodwaters, cars were tossed around like match-sticks, and debris was thrown everywhere.

Typhoon Haiyan

In all, more than 7360 people died, 27,000 were injured and 6 million displaced. 1.1 million homes were swept away or destroyed. Tacloban city more than 4,000 people perished. Overall

Please check the following news reports for stunning before and after pictures of damage in Tacloban City.

In the aftermath getting aid to the millions in need was hampered by the severity of the damage. Water and food were extremely scarce. People had to dig up water pipes just to survive and getting food was even more difficult. The Philippines are used to natural disaster with frequent earthquakes and typhoons, but completely misjudged the strength of Haiyan in the leadup to the storm. Many citizens did not evacuate and remained in low lying areas. For those who did, evacuation centers situated in flood zones turned out to be death traps. Police and medics were also victims so the response was extremely slow and lawlessness ensued. Tacloban was described as a war zone after the storm. Looting was widespread. The city became so dangerous that aid workers were urged not to go. When aid arrived it was poorly distributed, often according to political affiliation. Reports surfaced that food delivered to particular areas was deliberately buried so people could not get access to it. Tens of millions of dollars in aid were sequestered in government bank accounts. Over time international aid flooded in and distribution improved. many places homes were rebuilt from materials damaged in the storm, including battered corrugated iron, old blankets, and tires. But the storm also caused massive resettlement of citizens of the impacted areas as well as relocation away from coastal areas.

Overall Haiyan will be remembered as the most devastating storm of the last century.

Video: Typhoon Haiyan Documentary (20:21)

This documentary portrays the devastation caused by Haiyan.

Click here for a transcript of the Typhoon Haiyan Documentary Video.

[MUSIC PLAYING] PRESENTER 1: This is probably one of the top 12 of all storms ever seen on this planet.

PRESENTER 2: [INAUDIBLE] Typhoon Haiyan has made a direct hit on the island.

PRESENTER 3: The storm plowed through the island, leaving homes and buildings destroyed.

PRESENTER 4: This monster storm, it is so big, it's affecting two-thirds of the country.

RICHARD HEARSEY: November the 8th, 2013, marked one of the most devastating events to hit the Philippines-- a disaster so terrifying that left a trail of death and suffering in its wake, and the city changed forever.

YOLANDA STERN: Of all the flood areas that I've ever witnessed since [INAUDIBLE] other places, I think this is quite a calamity.

ANDREW SCHROEDER: The city looks badly damaged. It's clearly much worse than I had thought before I came here.

RICHARD HEARSEY: Neighborhoods were demolished and left unrecognizable. Families were separated and forced to ride out the typhoon on their own. Water rose dangerously high, and some were caught in the current.

ATTY. ESCALONA: It was so devastated to see how tremendous was the damage to my neighborhood.


RICHARD HEARSEY: Moments after the storm made landfall, a local man was placed in a desperate situation to save his family.


RICHARD HEARSEY: The tide came rushing into the coastal village. Time was running out. The situation was too much for one man to handle.


RICHARD HEARSEY: Typhoon Haiyan's landfall destroyed not only properties, but lives as well. Yolanda Village was one of the worst affected areas. Four cargo ships smashed the coastside village without warning. Some say bodies are still trapped beneath them. Surviving individuals are still traumatized by how much they lost in the storm.


RICHARD HEARSEY: Typhoons are a common occurrence in the Philippines. But Typhoon Yolanda was far from ordinary. The citizens of Tacloban underestimated the oncoming storm. Clinics and medical facilities were no exception to Typhoon Haiyan's fury.


RICHARD HEARSEY: Joy and her clinic was one of the worst to be hit. Floodwaters submerged the clinic. Black and murky water smashed in, and trapped Joy inside.


RICHARD HEARSEY: Joy survived, but the events of that day will haunt her forever. The loss of electricity and diminishing supplies worsened the city's conditions. And with no sign of help, the city fell into chaos.

ATTY. ESCALONA: And my wife and I saw lots of dead bodies just littered along the highway from here in [INAUDIBLE] towards San Jose. They did not have any communication at all. So there was this scarcity of food. People were forced-- some of the people were forced to loot. And the looting was rampant that the government was totally-- where there was total breakdown of government control, the looting.

RICHARD HEARSEY: After the storm had passed came the undeniable grief and loss of Tacloban's citizens. The situation is at its darkest. Many lost their lives and loved ones.

The worst affected of all are the children, one of which is Cesar, who lost his parents and siblings to the storm. Cesar's family was one of many caught by Typhoon Haiyan, unprepared for the harsh wind and rising water. Unfortunately, not everyone was lucky enough to survive. In just one day, Cesar lost those closest to him.


RICHARD HEARSEY: Cesar was saved and brought to the evacuation center, along with other survivors. The typhoon destroyed Tacloban. Fallen trees and debris were scattered along the streets. And worst of all, bodies began to pile up.

Cesar's family could not be found. Unknown to Cesar, his family had been swept away by the storm. Fortunately, his grandmother had survived the ordeal and found him.


RICHARD HEARSEY: After the storm passed and the waters receded, there was a bitter realization. The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan had left many scarred and homeless. Casualties had risen to thousands, and over three million families were affected.


In Palo Tacloban, large holes were quickly dug to dispose of the rotting bodies piling up on the streets. Unfortunately, the mass grave could not be completed fast enough due to the continuous rainfall. Instead, bodies had to be layered on top of one another.


RICHARD HEARSEY: After five days, the first help arrived. US soldiers brought fresh supplies and medical care into the city. Soon after, various relief organizations from all over the world arrived in Tacloban City, providing much-needed relief and support.

ANDREW SCHROEDER: Well, our goal is to support the medical system here throughout the entire affected area, particularly in Tacloban. So what Direct Relief does is receive medical material donations from large companies, like Pfizer, Abbott, Baxter, what have you. And make sure that people get them on the ground that are the most in need so that they can put them to use in the recovery of the health system here.

RICHARD HEARSEY: It took months. But with the efforts of many kind people, the victims of Typhoon Haiyan are finally catching a glimpse of hope on the horizon.


RICHARD HEARSEY: There is still a long way to go. But many are optimistic for the future.

YOLANDA STERN: I think One World Institute is here to just find out from the mayor and the government officials and medical professionals, as well as the people that have been devastated here, what they really need in order to rebuild their lives. I think not only do they need shelter, they need a livelihood. They need a way to earn a living, so they can send their children to school, put a roof over their heads and food on the table.

RICHARD HEARSEY: United, the people of Tacloban stand not as victims, but as victors.

ANDREW SCHROEDER: Just that the international community, and to the degree that we're a part of it, has been an honor to help in this situation. And it's something where it's an unprecedented disaster for the Philippines. And we will continue to help, as long as our help is needed.


TOM STERN: Hello. I'm Dr. Tom Stern, chairman of One World Institute. Please join us later for part two of our documentary, which shows how these survivors were reborn. I want to thank all of you for your generous donations. And see you later.