Super Typhoon Mangkhut (which means mangosteen fruit in Thai) began on Sept. 7 and wreaked havoc wherever it passed for about 10 days. At its peak it was the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, significantly bigger than Hurricane Florence was at its height. Mangkhut was named the strongest storm this year; it measured 550 miles wide and wind gusts hit 200 miles per hour.
Originally anticipated to land a direct hit on Guam, its path altered, and Guam suffered minimal damage and disruption. While the impact on Guam was less than anticipated, about 80 percent of the population lost power. Mangkhut also affected the Mariana Islands; it was the strongest storm to hit the island of Rota since 2002. The main community of Songsong lost power and hundreds have lost their homes. A federal emergency declaration was declared for the Northern Mariana Islands on Sept. 10, 2018 – EM-3402.
Super Typhoon Mangkhut then hit the northern end of Luzon, a Philippine island, in the early morning of Sept. 15. Severe rain led to flooding and mudslides including one that decimated the town of Itogon. The town of Tuguegardo, population over 140,000 was completely destroyed as it took a direct hit, with winds reaching 165 mph. More than 125 people are confirmed dead in the Philippines and more than 100 are still missing, mostly in landslides. The government estimates several million people were affected by the storm. Tens of thousands have been displaced and with thousands of homes damaged or destroyed.
In Hong Kong, a level 10 warning, the highest possible, was issued. Most people heeded the warning and no deaths have been reported to date in Hong Kong, although there were over 100 injuries. The storm caused significant flooding and wind damage as its winds reached 107 miles per hour with gusts up to 138 mph. Many of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers had windows blown out during the storm. Storm surge was nearly 10 feet in low-lying areas. It damaged the city’s famous Duddell Street steps built in the late 1800s and destroyed three of the last four gas lamps in Hong Kong. Both the lamps and the steps were declared monuments of Hong Kong.
The storm hit the gambling mecca of Macau on Sunday, Sept. 16 where, for the first time ever, all casinos were closed and boarded up in preparation for the storm. Damage was minimal to the casinos which opened again the next day although there was extensive power loss and flooding near the shoreline. The 33-hour casino shutdown is estimated to have cost $186 million USD in lost revenue.
More than three million people were evacuated in Southern China ahead of landfall Sunday afternoon in China’s most populated province Guangdong, home to over 100 million residents; 2.5 million people sought refuge in one of 18,0000 shelters. Six people were killed.
Although Taiwan was spared a direct hit one beach-going teacher was swept away by the strong waves and killed.
In the Philippine province of Cagayan, a key agricultural area, the storm hit right before the harvest. It is estimated that only a fifth of the produce had been harvested so the destruction of crops will mean many farmers have lost their entire income; household staples of rice and corn have been wiped out. This could have long-term impacts for the food supply chain.
Many of the northern Philippines communities affected were sites of illegal mining operations. The government has pledged to crack down on these locations which will lead to forced migration and loss of employment/income.
Across the affected areas the loss of housing and commercial/retail spaces is significant. While wealthier communities like Hong Kong have better access to resources to rebuild, the extent of the damage will still prove challenging. In many rural communities, especially in the Philippines and China, housing conditions were often poor before the storm and loss of housing will lead to increased overcrowding which can also affect health.
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