A massive swooning Typhoon, dubbed Yolanda, made landfall in the central Philippines on Friday, devastating the southeast Asian country. The Typhoon killed at least four people, forced over 750,000 people to evacuate their homes and knocked out power and communications in several provinces.
Typhoon Yolanda stampeded onto the country’s eastern island of Samar at 4:30 a.m. Friday. The typhoon hit the island traveling at 41 kph (25 mph), which meant it sped through quickly, though damage was severe.
“About 90% of the infrastructure and establishments were heavily damaged,” Gwendolyn Pang, the secretary general of the Philippine National Red Cross, told CNN International.
Because the Phillippines is an archipelago which likes tall mountains or land formations to slow down winds, it is susceptible to extreme weather occurrences.
On average, twenty typhoons batter the Philippines every year. Typhoon Bopha killed over 1,900 people in the Mindanao province in December of last year.
The speed at which the typhoon sliced through the central islands – 25 mph – was too fast for its 375-mile band of rain clouds to dump enough of their load to overflow most waterways.
Flooding from heavy rains is often one of the main causes of death from typhoons.
The brevity of the storm came at the price of pounding winds – The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center put Yolanda’s sustained winds at 196 mph right before the typhoon made landfall on Thursday.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scaledescribes winds of 252 kph (157 mph) or higher as capable of causing catastrophic damage.
However, officials in Tokyo and the Philippines put the wind speed at about 147 mph.
Satellite radar photo taken above the archipelago of the Phillippines around 5:30 pm Thursday evening. Typhoon Yolanda was a category 5 at the time. – (Photo Courtesy: NOAA/AP)
Yolanda was so large in diameter that, at one point, its clouds were cast over two-thirds of the country, which stretches more than 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) the length of Germany’s coastline. Tropical storm-force winds extended 240 kilometers (149 miles) from the typhoon’s center.
The most vulnerable people were sheltered in tents on the Filipino island of Bohol, where a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit last month, killing at least 222 people, injuring nearly 1,000 and displacing about 350,000, according to authorities.
Bohol is a major tourist attraction, as the central Filipino island is the home to the Tarsier, world’s smallest primate. Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan placed his cross over a cliff on Bohol’s coastline on April 14th, 1521, symbolizing the conversion of the Filipino people to Catholicism. Magellan’s cross is a popular pilgrimage destination for devout Catholics.
As the country sees daylight Saturday morning, officials will have a much better estimate of sustained damage and loss of life. Weakened structures, landslides and storm surges of up to 23 feet make post-storm evacuations and clean-up a perilous process.
Typhoon Yolanda is currently moving into the south China sea.
You can track the typhoon here as it heads northwest. It is expected to hit the countries of Laos and
Filipinos around the world are using social media to track the storm and their loved ones using the hashtag #YolandaPH.
By Dylan Peer