The typhoon that hit the Philippines in this past November made up the bulk of international news. As of very recently, the Philippine government confirmed that Haiyan killed more than 6,000 inhabitants. 1,800 people are still missing.
More than that, Haiyan drove nearly four million Filipinos out of their homes. But, it’s not the first storm to cause similar devastation in the region. Although indeed the first with live updates and videos of the wreckage via social media.
Of course there was the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004; the result of an intense earthquake that ended up crossing paths with 14 countries, leaving 230,000 dead. As catastrophic as that was, it was not a tropical storm.
The Worst Storms in Southeast Asia’s Recent history
2013 – Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), Philippines
Officially the deadliest storm to sweep this archipelago-nation.
Haiyan struck the Philippines on November 8 with winds over 190 mph, flattening areas like Tacloban City.
Although it is too early to tell the total economic impact of Haiyan, a low estimate given by Arsenio Balisacan, Filipino economic planning secretary, was pinned at USD $5.8 billion. However others like Jonathan Adams, senior analyst at Bloomberg Industries, said the impact may reach USD $14 billion.
2008 – Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar
This vicious cyclone struck on May 8, 2008 with 120 mph winds. Lasting over two days, it ravaged the Ayeyarwady Delta region. Houses were swept away by tides. And many victims were never recovered as they were brought out to sea.
Because of Myanmar’s military rule during this time, counting the final death toll is difficult. According to officials, 84,500 people were killed and 53,800 went missing. Thus, approximately 140,000 total.
However, overall 2.4 million people were affected by this cyclone across 37 townships– an area covering 23,500 sq. kilometers.
1991 – Tropical Storm Thelma, Philippines
Thelma had been the deadliest storm in Filipino history until Haiyan hit. Like Haiyan, Thelma struck the Philippines in the month of November. More than just the storm itself, a subsequent dam failure, landslides and flash flooding contributed to the ruin.
Thelma left a confirmed 5,000 people dead, with over 1,000 more missing.
1912 – Tacloban, Philippines
Another November typhoon to ravage Talcoban, the capital city of the province of Leyte.
Occurring in a time prior the technologies of today, the final casualty count is uncertain. It was approximated that half of Talcoban and another nearby city were demolished — leaving around 15,000 or so deceased.
However, a later report by the New York Times put the count much lower– at 300 persons. Because the storm damaged telegraph lines, the exact amount of those who suffered will never be known.
It should be noted that a storm struck Talcoban in 1897. Again, with uncertainty surrounding the events. A recent article published on Rappler.com put the official death toll at 1,300. Again, the extent of the damage will never be known.
1881 – Haiphong Typhoon, Vietnam
This low-lying Vietnamese city is believed to have suffered some of the highest fatalities ever after this fierce typhoon struck. Haiphong, a town in the northeastern part of the country, is only ten miles inland from the Gulf of Tonkin.
With an access-way to the ocean, Haiphong was in a great location commercially speaking. Nonetheless, this location also allowed the city to be vulnerable. And basically defenseless when the storm arrived.
It is presumed that the typhoon resulted in 300,000 deaths. However, overall losses may in fact be even higher due to following starvation and the spread of disease.
— Destruction in Tacloban after typhoon Haiyan – Wikimedia Commons
— Nargis Cyclone in Myanmar – Wikimedia Commons