A new threat
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
One of the deadliest features of Super Typhoon Haiyan that practically leveled Tacloban City when it made landfall there, was the storm surge that brought a wall of water into the city from the Gulf of Leyte. The surge was so powerful that it destroyed entire neighborhoods of wooden houses, flung ships ashore, and penetrated several kilometers into the heart of the city.
In an interview, CNN’s Paula Hancocks was told by a survivor: “If we’d have been warned about a tsunami, we’d have known not to be in the coastal area. They warned of a ‘storm surge’… we frankly didn’t know what that was. We didn’t know how deadly that was.” Professional storm chaser James Reynolds, who was in Tacloban during the storm, made the observation that when it came to storm surges, it was clear the locals had no idea what was coming.
Although the unprecedented power of Haiyan and the ensuing destruction absorbed by Tacloban makes it difficult to tell where its people could have safely evacuated to, it has become apparent that many more lives could have been saved had someone taken the pains to explain the nature of the imminent threat in plain language to the people that were in the path of what meteorologists had forecast to be as one of the strongest storms of the year for the entire planet.
Information on storm surge estimates was available during the preparation for the super typhoon’s landfall, but let probably was not given the attention it deserved, because it is something we have not encountered before, and the preparations were most likely focused elsewhere. Now that we have experienced the terrifying power of a storm surge, we hope that future preparations take that critical factor into account. Locations of current evacuation centers have to be evaluated and properly-located, super typhoon-resistant evacuation centers may have to be built in vulnerable areas, especially along the eastern seaboard of the country.
The importance of making a vulnerable population understand the danger posed by storm surges is just one of the many lessons that we can glean from our devastating experience with one of the strongest storms to make landfall in the history of the world. With more than 2000 already confirmed dead, we simply cannot afford to make those same mistakes again because, with the way our climate is changing, our country will surely be tested by many more powerful storms.*