Another powerful storm is testing Southeast Asian disaster responders after Typhoon Goni crashed into the Philippines on 1 November, before veering towards flood-hit central Vietnam.
Goni, known as Rolly in the Philippines, made landfall on Sunday on Catanduanes Island in the country’s east, bringing violent winds and extensive flooding. The Red Cross says there’s “massive devastation” in some areas, including 90 percent of the homes in villages in one part of Catanduanes.
Philippine authorities are still assessing the total damage, but the government said 11 people had died as of 2 November, with numbers still rising.
The evacuation of at least 450,000 people and early response planning helped avoid a worse outcome, but aid groups warn that the combined hit from a barrage of recent storms and the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic will test communities for months to come.
The Philippines has been locked in disaster response mode for weeks after previous storms caused extensive flooding in parts of Luzon, the country’s main island. Typhoon Molave, known as Quinta in the Philippines, killed at least 23 people in October; Typhoon Saudel, known as Pepito, struck days earlier.
Attention now turns to Vietnam, which is preparing for a weakened Goni to strike its flood-hit central region around 5 November – the country’s fifth major storm since mid-October.
Typhoon Goni’s wind speeds slowed to around 90 kilometres per hour by 2 November, but successive storms over the past month have driven severe floods and landslides across central Vietnam.
Vietnam’s government says roughly 160 people have died, with dozens more missing in the worst flooding to hit the country in 20 years. The disasters have inundated more than a quarter of a million homes, and prompted a $40 million humanitarian appeal targeting 177,000 people.
The Philippines isn’t in the clear, either. Another storm, Atsani or Siony, could careen toward northern Luzon in the coming days, though forecasters say its current path is extremely erratic.
Floods are common during Asia’s various monsoon and cyclone seasons, but aid groups say the damage has been particularly severe this year.
Typhoon Goni was the strongest storm to hit the country since 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, which killed more than 6,300 people and led to a massive humanitarian response.
Climate change is fuelling more volatile extreme weather across the globe. The Philippines’ first typhoon of the season, Vongfong or Ambo, arrived relatively early in May; the storm season typically hits its peak in July.
Posting on Twitter, Yeb Saño, who was the Philippines’ climate negotiator when Haiyan struck in 2013, said Typhoon Goni and the burst of recent extreme weather is further proof of a crisis.
“The climate emergency persists and is wreaking havoc,” he said.