Every year, the Philippines encounter numerous typhoons--flash floods and heavy rains has become an ordinary occurrence during rainy season. Over the decades, people have witnessed series of typhoons that varied in strength, duration, and impacts. Not all typhoons are bearable, especially those that left misery and devastation due to properties and lives lost.
With the large number of missing people and unrecorded worth of properties damaged every typhoon, Filipinos became resilient and stronger as a nation because of these storms.
Here’s the story behind the worst and strongest typhoon that landed in the Philippines and how Filipinos stood up to these test of time.
Why the Philippines is a Typhoon-Stricken Country
According to a study conducted by the Geneva-based United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Philippines is the fourth most disaster prone country in the world. It also revealed that Philippines is one of the top 10 countries with most number of people afflicted by such disasters--at staggering 130 billion.
One might be asking, “Why is the Philippines so prone to natural disasters?” National Geographic listed down the possible reasons--from geographic location to economic state--behind the Philippines being the most common subject to typhoons.
- Warm Waters
Philippines is situated above the equator and also, beside the Western Pacific Ocean. The equatorial, warm weather combined to water encourage tropical cyclones to form. Typhoons start to build up at 28°C (82.4°F) and the Western Pacific is normally at such degrees--hence the recurrent tropical cyclones in the country.
- Illegal Logging
Sometimes, it’s not the rain that kills people in the Philippines during the rage of typhoons, but the landslides. There is no other reason to blame for this but deforestation. Hills that lack trees have fewer roots to keep the land intact. The heavy rains only make situations worse.
- Coastal Homes
With the Philippines being surrounded by waters, about sixty per cent of population of the country are living in the low lying, coastal villages. This makes them the most susceptible to storm surges that are common (and deadly) during typhoons.
- Ring of Fire
The geographic location of the Philippines lies on the Pacific’s earthquake and volcano Ring of Fire. Meaning, the drifting of crust underneath the Pacific Ocean leads to the frequent tsunamis and earthquakes.
Apparently, there could have been a significantly lower death toll if only houses in the Philippines are constructed with materials that can withstand extreme winds and storm surges. But most people along the coastal area could not afford to build a well structured home--which is very essential if you’re living in a typhoon-prone country.
The worst thing about the devastating typhoons is losing people. Here are the deadliest typhoons throughout the history that claimed thousands of lives in the Philippines.
- Haiphong - 1881
Even in the modern days, Typhoon Haiphong which happened in October 8, 1881 still ranks as the deadliest typhoon that crossed the Philippines, killing over 20,000 people in the northern part of the country. It has three times the death toll of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Haiphong also ravaged tDai Nam (now known as Vietnam), leaving more than a whopping 300,000 people dead. With its alarming number of deaths, Haiphong is regarded as the third deadliest tropical cyclone ever in the world.
- Haiyan (Yolanda) - 2013
Considered as the deadliest Philippine typhoon of modern era, Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) claimed more than 6,300 lives in the Philippines, not to mention the deaths it caused to other parts of the Southeast Asian region. Over 1,061 people also went missing during the tragedy. Haiyan was also recorded as the most powerful storm at landfall that took place on November 8, 2013. As of January 2014, corpses were still being unearthed.
- Thelma (Uring) - 1991
Tropical storm Thelma (Uring) started out as a tropical disturbance in north-northeast of Palau, but eventually escalated into a tropical storm in November 4, 1991 as it got near to the Philippines. Thelma reached its peak intensity as it approached the Visayas region, ending number of lives ranging from 5,081 to 8,165. About over 3,000 people were declared missing or presumed dead in Thelma’s devastating visit in the country.
- Bopha (Pablo) - 2012
Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) was named as the strongest tropical cyclone that ever made a landfall in the southern parts of Mindanao. The typhoon was formed close to the equator with a minimum latitude of 7.4°N and arrived at land on December 3, 2012. By its landfall, the typhoon had ranked as Category 5 Super Typhoon. Number of casualties caused by Typhoon Bopha climbed to over 1,067 deaths, while about 834 people went missing until today.
- Angela Typhoon - 1867
A tropical cyclone named Angela has struck the Philippines in 1867 and reportedly killed over 1,800 people. Though accounts about this typhoon were very limited, Angela is still considered as the 5th deadliest typhoon in Philippine history.
- Winnie - 2004
Winnie was actually a tropical depression that hit the Philippines on November 27, 2004, but it unexpectedly possessed the disastrous power of a typhoon in terms of rainfall. As it approached the lands, the tropical depression reached its intensity peak with winds of 55 km/h (35 mph) and a barometric pressure of 1000 mbar (hPa; 29.53 inHg). Precipitating massive floods and landslides in the country, tropical depression Winnie left nearly 1,600 people dead and 751 others missing.
- October 1897 Typhoon
Over a hundred years ago, Samar, Leyte faced a destructive typhoon that’s quite similar to the traumatic Typhoon Haiyan on October 7, 1987. The said typhoon had no meteorological name, but there were records and photographs about it--proving that Samar was no stranger to cataclysmic typhoons ever since. According to these accounts, the typhoon wiped out over 1,500 individuals at the time.
- Ike (Nitang) - 1984
On August 31, 1984, typhoon Ike (Nitang) devastated the Philippines with its extremely strong winds that reached 230 km/h and floods. It was named as the deadliest tropical cyclone during 1984 Pacific typhoon season--a long series of typhoon events that struck the country during the said year. Typhoon Ike resulted to more than 1,492 deaths in the Philippines. Ike also directly hit China where it became the biggest tropical cyclone to afflict Guangxi since 1954.
- Fengshen (Frank) - 2008
Typhoon Fengshen directly struck Philippines and China on June 21, 2008 that lost over 1,371 lives and left 87 people missing. It caused controversies because several errors were committed in forecasting the direction of the typhoon. The said typhoon was also known for the capsizing of MV Princess of the Stars ship during the height of the storm, killing about 846 of the 922 passengers it held.
- Durian (Reming) - 2006
From November 25 to December 6, 20016, typhoon Durian affected five countries in Southeast Asia namely Yap State, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. Summing up the total number of deaths in these countries, the fatalities skyrocketed to more than 1,500. In the Philippines, the typhoon wreak havoc on the city of Albay, worsening the ongoing effects of Mayon Volcano at the time. The final death toll is still unknown due to the areas buried with lahar, but estimates range from 800 to 1,000 casualties.
In a snap, structures and items worth billions were easily flushed away with the floods and gone in the strong winds. Below are top 10 costliest typhoons that ever hit the Philippines.
- Haiyan (Yolanda) - 2013
With its catastrophic storm surges, torrential rain, and bustling wind, Typhoon Haiyan is said to be the most destructive typhoon that ever afflicted the country, costing $2.86 billion (89.6 billion pesos) through the damages it had done to cities affected. Tacloban City was almost apocalyptic at the time--people were violently looting for survival and everything was ruined. There were also widespread power outage and disrupted communication in the city, making it harder for rescuers to save the victims. A resident from there even quoted, “Tacloban is a dead city.”
- Bopha (Pablo) - 2012
An estimate of $1.04 billion (42.2 billion pesos) was lost during the destruction of Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines. In Mindanao where the typhoon made its landfall, thousands of families were left homeless and more than 170,000 moved to evacuation centers. Flooding, power blackout, disrupted communication, and widespread damage made up the chaotic scenario for Mindanaoans.
- Rammasun (Glenda) - 2014
Typhoon Rammasun took $871 million (38.6 billion pesos) from the country with its devastating visit in 2014. Though there were enough advisories by the authorities, people caught off guard by the effects of typhoon Rammasun. In some parts of Luzon and Visayas, more than 1,300 villages were warned about the disastrous impact of the typhoon and about 6,000 residents fled to evacuation centers. Landslides, flash floods, strong rains and winds have put the Philippines in Red Alert status. The typhoon has caused a major power blackout within Metro Manila as it ruined the poles and lines--at least 90% were affected.
- Parma (Pepeng) - 2009
Typhoon Parma had costed the Philippines about $608 million (27.3 billion pesos). This typhoon amplified the damages in the Philippines caused by the earlier typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy). Its movement around the country went back and forth--when the typhoon was about to depart, it was pulled by the incoming typhoon Melor on the Pacific. As a result, the typhoon Parma became severe and returned, devastating the country especially the northern Luzon. The authorities have placed a red alert status nationwide. Different dams were also released, causing flash floods, storm surges, and landslides.
- Nesat (Pedring) - 2011
About $333 million (15 billion pesos) went to waste after Typhoon Nesat made its destruction in the country, putting Luzon into a state of calamity. The authorities ordered 111,000 people situated in the flood-prone areas of the Albay Province to leave as the typhoon neared the land. During the time, the cities and provinces were placed under storm warning signals. It halted the daily activities of the residents in Metro Manila, and flights and ferry services were cancelled. Manila had experienced waist deep floodwater and flying debris due to storm surges and strong winds.
- Fengshen (Frank) - 2008
Typhoon Fengshen took its destructive course through Metro Manila and other provinces in Luzon, causing an estimated $301 million (13.5 billion pesos) worth of damages. The Philippine National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported that 99,687 families were affected. In all ten regions afflicted by the typhon, about 155,564 houses were damaged, 53,706 were completely destroyed, and 109,837 were partially impaired. It also damaged 3.2 billion pesos worth of agricultural and fish products.
- Megi (Juan) - 2010
The aftermath of Typhoon Megi in 2010 includes the loss of $255 million (11 billion pesos) worth of properties, agricultural, and fish goods. Heavy rains and flash floods ravaged the northern part of the country, making 3,687 people seek temporary shelter through evacuation centres and leaving 200,000 people homeless. About 90% of regional communications were gone due to the toppling down of communication infrastructures in Cagayan and Isabela.
- Ketsana (Ondoy) - 2009
The worth of agricultural and infrastructure damages incurred by the typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines has reached to $244 million (11 billion pesos). The typhoon made its landfall on the borders of Baler, Aurora. In just a matter of hours, it quickly approached Metro Manila, resulting to widespread flooding in all of its cities. Main roads, including EDSA, were also declared untraversable due to the strong flood currents and clogged vehicles. Failure in power, water connection, and communication were also experienced in the major cities during the said typhoon.
- Mike (Ruping) - 1990
About $241 million (10.8 billion pesos) worth of properties and crops were destroyed during the height of typhoon Mike, mostly in Visayas region. Upon hitting the Cagayan De Oro, millions of individuals have lost their homes. A whopping 3.2 million Filipinos fled to schools and evacuation centers for temporary shelter. A total of 116,512 homes were totally destroyed while 294,131 others were damaged. Due to the catastrophic effects of the typhoon, Visayas was placed under state of calamity.
- Angela (Rosing) - 1995
Typhoon Angela inflicted damages worth $241 million (10.8 billion pesos) to the country, especially to Metro Manila, Calabarzon Region and Bicol Region. More than 96,000 homes and roads and bridges were ruined by storm surges, extreme winds, and flooding. About one-third of the Philippines were also affected by the power cut due to the raging storm.
These tragedies taught Filipinos to become a strong nation and a better prepared country. Nature has a way of staging its surprises, and for sure, you wouldn’t want to be caught unprepared when it happens. There are different ways to be ready for disasters check out our infographics on preparing for typhoons here.
Have you had your unforgettable experience with typhoons or natural calamities? We’d love to know your story. Share us your experience in the comments below.