Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Typhoon Death Toll Rises

Typhoon Bopha hit the southern portions of the Philippine Islands on Monday and Tuesday, sporting winds as high as 160 mph when it struck Mindanao late on Monday (US time).  Mindanao, a large island on the south end of the archipelago, is struck by tropical cyclones much less frequently than Luzon on the north end due to its lower latitude (below 10 degrees north, which is typically below the main tropical cyclone track).  Bopha's extremely low latitude allowed it to thrive as a December storm since it was able to stay south of any influences of the upper level jet.  Its smaller size compared to most tropical cyclones also helped as well.

Bopha's rain and wind killed over 270 in the Philippines, with hundreds still unaccounted for.   Rains lead to flooding that swept through valleys in Mindanao, leading to deaths inland.

"The waters came so suddenly and unexpectedly, and the winds were so fierce, that compounded the loss of lives and livelihood," Arthur Uy told Reuters in a telephone interview. Uy is the governor of the Compostela Valley Province in Mindanao.

Damage in Compostela Valley could reach $100 million, with 60 to 70 percent of the banana crop destroyed according to Reuters.

Karlos Manlupig / AFP - Getty Images

Bopha is the strongest cyclone to hit Mindanao since Kate in 1970, which took a track slightly farther south than Bopha has.  While typhoons and tropical cyclones rarely strike Mindanao, the island was severely impacted last December by Tropical Storm Washi, which killed 1200 due to flooding rainfall and caused $50 million in damage to a part of the Philippines that's one of the more impoverished.

Bopha is projected to move away from the Philippines and into the South China Sea, stall out, and then weaken over the next few days.