Residents rebuild after super Typhoon Mangkhut damages Asia

by Gloria Zhang and Mara Tucker

Residents and governments are rebuilding cities after Typhoon Mangkhut, the strongest tropical storm of the year, swept through the Southeast Asia and Southern China, causing severe damage to infrastructure and agriculture.

Typhoon Mangkhut, or Typhoon Ompong, first landed in the Luzon province of the Philippines as a super typhoon on Sept. 15 with winds reaching 150 mph.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, who scales storms from 1 to 5, initially raised a Signal 3 alert but later changed it to a Signal 4. The typhoon then made its way to Southern China, categorized as a Signal 10 storm, from 1-to-10 scale, with 10 occurring rarely, by the Hong Kong Observatory on Sept. 16.

In the Philippines, the typhoon caused severe landslides, and at least 81 died from the storm. In Hong Kong, the storm destroyed high-rises, interrupted public transportation services, uprooted trees and damaged famous historical lights. Tens of thousands of people were stranded at the Hong Kong International Airport.

“There was a lot damage done, especially in the outlying areas of Hong Kong. A lot of buildings were damaged; trees were uprooted; even transport was affected. There were two days where school was suspended because of transport problems,” Hong Kong native Emily Hyland, 16, said. “There was debris on the roads, so they used two days to clean up everything for buses and cars to go through.”

Tropical cyclones have historically hit the northwestern Pacific more frequently than other areas. Southern China, Japan and the Philippines are hit by typhoons every year during the peak months of August to October.

“[Typhoons] happen about 25 to 35 times every year in the northwestern Pacific. In some cases, there are super typhoons that appear, and one example is Typhoon Mangkhut, which is a category 5 typhoon,” former AP Environmental Science student Emma Li (11) said. “[Categories] go from 1 to 5—1 being the least intense, 5 being the most intense. Its intensity is based on the speed in which the typhoon is spinning and displacing.”

The rising frequency and intensity of storms in the last few years have been related to climate change. Storms such as Typhoon Mangkhut are setting records for storms occurring within this century. Forecasters predict larger storms will happen more frequently.

“A lot of what drives the formation of these storms is the difference between the air and water temperature. With climate change the differentials are predicted to be greater. The warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold; the more moisture it can hold, the more powerful the storm,” biology teacher Dr. Katherine Schafer said.

Climate change not only contributes to storms with greater magnitude, but rising sea levels, causing more damage to coastal communities.

“For these low lying areas, regardless if the storms are more intense of not, sea level is rising. Even the storms of the same magnitude, the communities [of island nations] are more vulnerable, as they are closer to tide lines,” Schafer said. “that’s one of the things that’s such a tragedy. The most impacted people, at least early on, are the ones who contributed the least to the problem.”

Communities of volunteers in Hong Kong have come together for massive cleanups at beaches, oceans, streams, streets and villages.

“To help out with the local community, our school has volunteered to help clean up the roads around the school. [We] picked up branches, [which is] basically a small cleanup of the community,” Emily said.

As residents are recovering from the typhoon, nonprofits have also mobilized recovery effects that all people can join to help. Some organizations that accept donations are the American Red Cross, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Episcopal Relief & Development, Global Giving, Philippine Red Cross Unicef.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on October 17, 2018.