While the Unites States watched Hurricane Florence batter the southern East Coast last week, super typhoon Mangkhut was making landfall in the Philippines and Southern China. This Category 5-equivalent storm was accompanied by winds of up to 165 miles per hour—much stronger than Florence’s average sustained wind speeds of about 85 miles per hour—on top of storm surges up to 10 feet in some areas.
Dubbed the world’s strongest storm of the year, Mangkhut had caused at least 127 deaths by September 22.
A massive landslide caused by the super typhoon in the northern Philippines’ Cordillera region was the center focus of American news headlines about the storm. The town of Itogon lies on a mountainside and is home to many miners who became trapped after taking shelter from the storm in a bunkhouse. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and dozens of people were buried from the falling rocks, with only 18 bodies being recovered and just three making it out alive. This was one of 51 landslides to occur in the Philippines as a result of Mangkhut and was a major cause of death from the typhoon.
Per a September 19 Situation Report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) of the Philippines, the storm has impacted 264,304 families for a total of over 1 million people in 468 different cities/municipalities. Local government units are leading the post-disaster emergency response and damage assessments. The initial damage is estimated to cost around $265 million U.S. dollars.
After wreaking havoc on the Philippines, Mangkhut made its way to Southern China, striking Hong Kong and forcing almost 3 million people to be moved to safety. A red alert, the most severe disaster warning, was issued by authorities to urge residents to flee for safety and officials to prepare for the disaster.
Before the storm, John Lee Ka-chiu, Hong Kong’s Security Minister explained that preparation and response efforts would be greater than in the past because of the severity of the storm. “Each department must have a sense of crisis, make a comprehensive assessment and plan, and prepare for the worst,” he said. In preparation, hundreds of flights were cancelled, high-speed and regular-speed trains were halted in two provinces, and almost 50,000 fishing boats were called back to port.
The storm was the most powerful typhoon to hit the city since 1979, shattering glass windows on coastal skyscrapers and ripping roofs off buildings. The rail and airlines have since been restored, but repairs to damaged infrastructure are still ongoing.
Hong Kong Chief eExecutive Carrie Lam told reporters: “This typhoon really was super strong … but overall, I feel we can say we got through it safely.”
Super Typhoon Mangkhut has been downgraded to a tropical depression since moving inland and continues to weaken.