In 2011 more than 80% of all the deaths around the world caused by natural disasters occurred in Asia. The Philippines were the epicenter with 33 natural disasters, more than any country in the world. Typhoon Washi claimed more than 1200 lives in late 2011. Super Typhoon Bopha which struck December 2012 took 900 lives.
Super Typhoon Bopha packed winds of up to 100 miles per hour bringing torrential rains that destroyed villages and left 320,000 homeless. A total of 184 had perished in Compostela Valley, including 78 villagers and soldiers who died in a flash flood that swamped two emergency shelters and a military camp. Most of the typhoon’s victims appeared to have drowned or been hit by falling trees or flying debris, officials said.
The eastern coast of Mindanao, which was the area hardest hit by the storm, is a remote, impoverished agricultural area. There were tens of thousands of fallen coconut trees and many acres of destroyed banana plantations. Local television crews broadcast grisly footage of mud-covered bodies being loaded into trucks in villages that appeared flattened by the storm. In some areas, not a single structure could be seen standing.
The Philippines is hit by as many as 20 powerful tropical storms each year, but this one struck remote communities south of the usual typhoon path.
Flooding in Italy
In November floods in Venice left 70% of the city under water as sea levels reached 5ft – the sixth highest water level since 1872. Tourists were filmed swimming across Venice’s famous St. Mark’s Square. In Tuscany hundreds of people were forced to flee their homes as rivers burst their banks and streets were flooded. Some were rescued from rooftops by helicopters. Nine inches of rain fell in just four hours, overflowing the Parmignola and Ricortola rivers. Storms battered ancient towns and left large swaths of farmland in Tuscany under water, prompting a warning from the region’s governor, Enrico Rossi, that “climate change is making us get used to ever more violent flooding“.
Italy’s agricultural production is under threat. A hot, arid summer this year, followed by the floods, has ensured that more traditional Italian produce is increasingly scarce. Italy’s wine harvest dropped 6% to a 40-year low, while the apple harvest was down by 22%, pears by 13%, chestnuts by 50% and honey by 25%. Production of flour destined for making pasta dropped by 12%.
The Tiber River, which runs through the center of Rome, overflowed bike and jogging paths along its banks in the capital. The cash-strapped Italian government was scrambling to find emergency funds. The European Union earmarked $23 million in “solidarity funds” to help with repairs to roads, electrical systems, water and sewage systems and building controls.
Floods cause chaos around Britain after heavy rains
Today, December 20, the Guardian reported that roads, railways and waterways are being hit by high water levels after 1.6 inches of rain fell within a 24-hour period. Large swaths of southern and south-western England, south-east Wales and the Midlands are being warned to prepare for flooding. Successive bands of heavy rain are moving across England and Wales, and with the ground already saturated, this is likely to lead to property flooding from rivers and surface water as well as disruption to road and rail networks.
In November the river Ruchill burst its banks near the town of Comrie in Scotland. Prior to that the village was badly flooded in August, when the river previously burst its banks. The ground is so saturated now that the water has nowehere to go. More rain is predicted. On a major road there were an estimated 100-150 tons of debris and torrential rainfall blocked the drainage system, causing severe flooding on the road surface. Falling debris has closed the road five times in five years.
Flooding in China
The worst rains in 60 years left 37 dead in and around Beijing in July 2012. The floods cost $1.63 billion in damage. Officials said 25 drowned in the city, six were killed in house collapses, one was hit by lightning and five were electrocuted by toppled power lines.
In August Typhoon Haikui, the 11th typhoon of the year, brought downpours and floods to east China. The rains caused 12 townships to lose power, according to the provincial power company.
A powerful cyclone ripped through Samoa, one of the Pacific islands, on December 14, 2012, reportedly killing at least two people. Samoa declared a state of emergency after cyclone Evan flattened homes, caused floods, cut power and uprooted trees. In the capital, Apia, the Vaisigano river burst its banks, washing away cars and trees.
Flooding elsewhere in the world
Many parts of western Africa and the Sahel, including Niger and Chad, suffered serious flooding between July and September because of a very active monsoon. Exceptional floods hit Nigeria and parts of southern China experienced their heaviest rainfall in the last 32 years. Devastating monsoon floods hit Pakistan during September.
Niger, a country situated in the inland section of West Africa, was facing extreme drought conditions earlier this year before floods hit the country in September and devastated thousands of people, both in the capital of Niamey and in rural districts.
The BBC reported that at least 14,000 homes and around 7,000 fields of crucial cereal crops have been destroyed by rising flood levels. Those crops were already strained from the preceding drought. Up to around 65 people may have also perished due to the sudden onrush of flooding throughout the country.
Heavy seasonal rainfalls caused the Niger River to burst past its usual levels, sweeping away thousands of homes and structures over the last few weeks. Niger’s leaders have been hoping for increased global aid to help people on the ground in Niger.
All over the world…
hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, tornadoes and flooding are harbingers and manifestations of global warming. Infrastructure is collapsing, agriculture is at risk, electric power is being challenged. The more carbon we flood into the atmosphere, the more we’re adding fuel to the fire of global warming. Instead of meeting these challenges for rebuilding infrastructure to withstand the threats from global warming and discontinuing the use of products that add to it, we are foolishly spending our money on war and tax giveaways to the rich and corporations – especially the fossil fuel corporations that are contributing the most to environmental destruction.
bob dorn says
Phew…, John, how’d you find all that?
One thought that emerges is that Americans and many Europeans have for centuries considered the seashore and interior waterways, i.e. lowlands, as the best place to build often lavish homes. The practice defied common and uncommon sense.
John Lawrence says
Bob, so much of world development is adjacent to lowlands and waterways that it is particularly vulnerable as global warming proceeds and sea levels rise. Even inland flooding from rivers will continue to take a huge toll.
Anna Daniels says
John- I feel pretty sure that you will do an article on droughts too. There is something more visually riveting about floods and hurricanes, droughts less so. We become quickly anesthetized to images of cracked baked earth and rotting carcasses of livestock. That is unfortunate.
John Lawrence says
Anna, even more devastating is a drought followed by a flood as happened in Niger. They got the worst of both situations.
Rolando C says
Though the question of climate change is often directed to whether it’s man-made or not, the truth is, really climate change is here. Here in the Philippines, particularly in the island of Mindanao, so many died because nobody expected that such a fierce typhoon would hit us, usually it only passes the islands north of Mindanao and we received the residual rains. Sendong/Washi struck northern Mindanao hardest in 2011, while Pablo struck hardest the eastern part of Mindanao this year. Northern Mindanao is prepared for Pablo so the casualties are minimized. For the eastern Mindanao provinces, it’s their first time for this generation.
John Lawrence says
Thanks Rolando for the comment. Here in the US too often we’re not aware of what’s going on in the rest of the world. As bad as Superstorm Sandy was here, Super Typhoon Bopha was much worse in terms of the number of people who were killed in the Phillipines. Unfortunately, we have to expect much worse as global warming continues. We need to make preparations now so as to minimize the damage in the coming years.
As far as tornadoes go there is no statistical trend related to global warming:
Of course for hurricanes it makes sense they may increase.
While sea levels may rise there is cause to believe there will be some positive aspects to climate change. It’s not like ice ages are good for living things. :-)
John Lawrence says
Well, I don’t know that one study conclusively proves that tornado formation is entirely delinked from global warming. The article mentioned that another report by an insureance company asserted the opposite. What we do know is that even garden variety rain storms are coming with higher velocity winds turning every snow and rain storm into a blizzard.
We also don’t know who funded the study … was it Enron per chance? As the atmosphere warms, it makes sense that wind velocities will increase, and when two systems meet up, the shear produces tornadoes. I still say that there is a relationship although absolute proof or disproof is not available at this time.
I don’t know what positive aspects you see in climate change. Agricultural patterns will shift northward. I suppose that’s good for people living in northern climes who will be able to grow different crops although their growing seasons will remain shorter, but it will be devastating to areas where these crops are customarily grown. The melting of glaciers will deprive many of the world’s peoples of a water supply as major rivers dry up on a seasonal basis. The rise in sea levels will wipe out major port cities, and increased rainfall will flood inland cities adjacent to rivers.