Typhoon Haiyan

On 2 November 2013, a low-pressure area developed in the Pacific Ocean, which was upgraded to a tropical storm named Haiyan on 4 November. The storm moved onwards, eventually making landfall in the Philippines on 8 November at 4:40 am local time as a Category 5 storm. With wind speeds up to 195 mph/315 km/h and gusts up to 235 mph/376 km/h, it wreaks havoc before moving on, eventually disintegrating over Guangxi, China. When the storm passed, more than 14 million people were heavily affected by the path of Typhoon Haiyan, the most powerful storm in 2013 and one of the most powerful typhoons of all time. Read on to learn more about this devastating storm's effects on the Philippines.

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    Typhoon Haiyan case study

    Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded; it was also the second deadliest typhoon recorded in the Philippines, after Typhoon Haiphong in 1881. Read on to learn more about the Typhoon Haiyan case study.

    Did you know: in the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan is also known as Typhoon Yolanda

    Path of Typhoon Haiyan

    Typhoon Haiyan did not start out as a typhoon at all. It originated as a low-pressure area in the Federated States of Micronesia (in the western Pacific Ocean) on 2 November 2013.

    The storm moved westwards, and by 4 November, it had gradually developed into a tropical storm, now named Haiyan. Then, things progressed quickly as the storm became a typhoon by 5 November. By 6 November, Typhoon Haiyan became a Category 5 storm that hit parts of Micronesia and Palau with wind speeds of over 157 mph/252 km/h.

    Typhoon Haiyan entered the Philippines on 7 November and made landfall in Eastern Samar at 4:40 am on 8 November. It hits with full Category 5 force, leaving a path of destruction throughout several areas of the Philippines, mainly the Visayas, the central island group of the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan moves out into the South China Sea, heading towards Vietnam by 9 November. By this time, the typhoon has weakened into a storm. The storm, already weakened, made landfall in northeast Vietnam on 10 November until it eventually disintegrated into bands of rain over Guanxi, China, on 11 November.

    Typhoon Haiyan category

    Typhoons are categorised into five categories based on the Saffir-Sampson Hurricane Wind scales. These categories are based on sustained wind speeds. Categories 1 and 2 are destructive, with winds between 74 to 95 mph (Category 1) and 96 to 110 mph (Category 2). If the wind speeds increase further, the storm can be updated to a Category 3, with speeds between 111 and 129 mph, and a Category 4, with wind speeds between 130 and 156 mph. These categories are labelled ‘catastrophic’. When sustained winds reach or go beyond 157 mph, it will become a Category 5, a storm that causes pure devastation. Typhoon Haiyan was a Category 5 when it hit the Philippines.

    The table below shows the dates and wind speeds of the storm.

    DateTimeWind (mph)Wind (km/h)

    Table 1

    Primary effects of Typhoon Haiyan

    Typhoon Haiyan had massive effects on the places where it passed/touched land. The primary effects were:

    • 1.1 million homes were badly damaged or completely destroyed, and 4.1 million people became homeless, particularly around Eastern and Western Visayas (Philippines).
    • Other buildings were also damaged.
    • Powerlines were damaged.
    • Communication was down.
    • Tacloban Airport in Leyte province (Philippines) was damaged.
    • Roads were blocked by debris and fallen trees.
    • The infrastructure was damaged.
    • There was a 5-metre storm surge in Leyte and Tacloban (Philippines). Furthermore, both places were affected by 400mm of rainfall which flooded the area up to 1km inland.
    • Approximately 90% of Tacloban (Philippines) was destroyed.
    • Approximately 1.1 million tonnes of crops were destroyed.
    • Around 600,000 hectares of farmland were affected.
    • Over 3/4 of farmers and fishers lost their income, a loss of $724 million.
    • Even though harvest season was over, rice and seeds were lost in the storm surges, a loss of $53 million.
    • The overall cost of damage was estimated at $12 billion.
    • A total of 14.1 million people were affected, and 6,190 people lost their lives. To this day, there are still people missing. The estimated death toll is as high as 10,000.

    Did you know: Bodies were discovered even well into 2019, 6 years after the storm!

    Apart from the primary effects mentioned above, there were also secondary effects. An oil barge was stranded at Estancia, leaking a staggering 800,000 litres of oil. The oil contaminated the waters, killing marine life, and it caused a stop to fishing. The oil even contaminated 10 hectares of mangroves 10km inland!

    The damage to the agricultural and fishing industries caused a food shortage. People began looting and fighting over food and supplies; eight people died during a stampede for rice supplies. The damage to fields and rice seeds caused rice prices to rise by 11.9% by 2014.

    The flooding damaged people’s houses and agriculture and caused surface and groundwater to be contaminated with seawater, debris, industrial and agricultural chemicals, and sewage systems. Water was now contaminated, and there were increased chances of infection and the spreading of diseases.

    The local government collapsed in many areas because many local officials died during the storm. This had a significant impact as it took some time to get everything in (working) order.

    Typhoon Haiyan Case Study Destruction in Tacloban, the Philippines, on 14 November 2013, 2 weeks after Typhoon Haiyan Study SmarterFig. 2 - Destruction in Tacloban, the Philippines, on 14 November 2013, 2 weeks after Typhoon Haiyan

    Typhoon Haiyan responses

    In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, there were immediate and long-term responses. Let’s take a closer look at both.

    Immediate responses

    Benigno Aquino III, then-President of the Philippines, televised a warning of the upcoming storm, and the authorities evacuated 800,000 people. An indoor stadium in Tacloban had a reinforced roof to withstand typhoon winds, so many sought refuge here, thinking they were safe. While they were safe from the typhoon winds, unfortunately, many people died when the following water flooded the stadium. Ahead of the storm, the government ensured that essential equipment and medical supplies were sent out; however, in one region, these were washed away.

    There were worries about substantial outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, which would only increase the death toll. The WHO (World Health Organisation) and other relief agencies took prompt actions to ensure that such outbreaks were kept isolated and to a minimum.

    Three days after the storm had passed, Tacloban Airport was open again, and emergency supplies began arriving by plane, with one million food packs and 250,000 litres of water distributed within two weeks.

    The storm also led to looting, where houses and shops were broken into, and goods were stolen. In light of this, a curfew was imposed just two days after the storm. Furthermore, power was entirely or partially restored, depending on the region, in a week.

    Thirty-three countries and international organisations pledged help to the affected regions. Support came in the form of rescue operations and aid estimated at $88.871 million. Among those who helped were celebrities such as the Beckhams and large multinationals such as Coca-Cola, Apple and FIFA, who donated money and used their status and influence to help raise global awareness of the Philippines' predicament and encourage the public to donate. Over $1.5 billion in foreign aid was pledged.

    Did you know: the Aquino government got a lot of criticism for acting slowly in the relief efforts?

    Long-term responses

    Along with the immediate responses mentioned above, there were also a few important, long-term responses.

    In July 2014, the Philippine government stated they were working on the country’s long-term recovery. The primary long-term response is the so-called ‘Build Back Better.' This means that buildings would not simply be rebuilt but would also be upgraded to offer better protection when, not if, a new disaster strikes.

    Other long-term responses are a ‘no build zone’ along Eastern Visayas’ coast, a new storm surge warning system, the replanting of mangroves, and plans to build the Tacloban-Palo-Tanauan Road Dike. The latter should be able to help protect the area from floods.

    Typhoon Haiyan facts

    Here are some quick facts about Typhoon Haiyan:

    • Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, was a Category 5 typhoon by the time it hit the Philippines.
    • Coconut, rice and sugarcane production accounted for 12.7% of the Philippines’ GDP before Typhoon Haiyan hit.
    • On 7 November, the Tacloban area was struck by the northern eyewall. This is the most powerful part of the storm.
    • The Philippines is a poverty-stricken area in general. This means that the area had poor defences against storms, to begin with; it also means that the storm had even more significant consequences as homes and other buildings were damaged, fishing and agriculture were damaged, and there were even fewer resources such as food and water than before the storm.
    • It took a considerable amount of time to recover from Typhoon Haiyan. There were immediate issues such as damaged houses/buildings, infrastructure and food problems, and long-term social, economic and environmental impacts that had to be addressed. While some of the more immediate issues were dealt with rather quickly, some long-term issues took years. That said, five years after the storm, the Philippines, and Tacloban, in particular, have recovered, and things were back to normal.

    Typhoon Haiyan Case Study Map of houses damaged by Typhoon Haiyan Study SmarterFig. 3 - Map of houses damaged by Typhoon Haiyan

    Typhoon Haiyan - Key takeaways

    • Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, was one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded, namely Category 5, and the second deadliest in the Philippines.
    • Many primary effects were damaged homes, agricultural and fishing businesses, and loss of life.
    • One of the more dire secondary effects was weakened local governments because many government officials died or went missing.
    • The Philippine government were criticised for reacting slowly to the storm and its aftermath.
    • Long-term responses include a 'Build Back Better' where houses were not only rebuilt but upgraded to withstand storms better, and a ‘no build zone’ along Eastern Visayas’ coast.


    1. Fig. 2: Destruction in Tacloban, the Philippines, on 14 November 2013, 2 weeks after Typhoon Haiyan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tacloban_Typhoon_Haiyan_2013-11-14.jpg) by Trocaire (https://www.flickr.com/people/8485582@N07) Licensed by CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)
    Frequently Asked Questions about Typhoon Haiyan

    Where did Typhoon Haiyan start and end? 

    Typhoon Haiyan started in the Federated States of Micronesia (in the western Pacific Ocean) and ended over the Guanxi region in China. 

    What was the category of Typhoon Haiyan? 

    Typhoon Haiyan was a Category 5 storm.

    What were the effects of Typhoon Haiyan? 

    There were many primary effects, such as loss of life, damaged homes, damage to agricultural and fishing industries, and an overall estimated cost of $12 billion.

    What did the government do after Typhoon Haiyan? 

    The government was initially slow to respond and was criticised for it. Eventually, they acted. The primary long-term response is the 'Build Back Better', an initiative where homes and buildings were not only rebuilt but also upgraded to offer better protection against future storms. Furthermore, they opted for a 'no build' zone along Eastern Visayas' coast, new storm surge warning systems, replanting of mangroves, and the Tacloban-Palo-Tanauan Road Dike.

    How long did it take the Philippines to recover from Typhoon Haiyan? 

    While certain issues were resolved relatively quickly, such as getting the power working again, other issues took longer. About 5 years after the storm, the Philippines, and Tacloban in particular, have recovered, and things were back to normal.  

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

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