Typhoon Leaves Dozens Dead And Many Missing In Asia

Sep 17, 2018
Originally published on September 17, 2018 11:24 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We've been closely tracking the storm here on our shores. But meanwhile, on the other side of the world, another massive system brought damaging winds and heavy rain to Southeast Asia. Typhoon Mangkhut made landfall in the Philippines this weekend, leaving dozens dead. Almost 2 1/2 million people have been relocated in China as the typhoon approaches. Julie McCarthy joins us now from Manila.

Julie, thanks for being here.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So this storm, as I noted, made landfall in the Philippines on Saturday. How much of the country was affected by this?

MCCARTHY: Well, the northern-most island, Luzon, which is the biggest and most populous island, was really affected by it. The storm had this huge diameter. It was 500 miles wide. And unlike Florence, it was fast-moving, and these winds brought down power, transmission lines, damaged bridges. The rain was falling for hours, of course, flooding homes and starting floods. And 90 percent of the farm fields, Rachel, in some key provinces, are wiped out. We're talking about the biggest rice-producing region in the Philippines. So we could see a knock-on effect here from the storm on the food supply.

MARTIN: Is this the kind of place that is used to getting huge storms like this? I mean, were officials prepared?

MCCARTHY: Well, you know, they are used to it, and it would appear from this storm, certainly, that they're becoming more prepared. Some 200,000 people evacuated to government schools and gyms. A lot of cram - many of them crammed in at the last minute, but they heeded the government's warning. The urban areas are easier to alert. The mountainous, central area was much less prepared, and the vast majority of deaths occurred in those communities where landslides are the biggest hazard. And landslides buried dozens of people who were in their homes or out clearing the roads. The bodies of miners who panned for gold are being found. They're being retrieved from the mud near a bunkhouse that they used as a shelter. But, you know, Rachel, considering the fact that 5 million people were affected by the storm, potentially, the number of fatalities is comparatively low.

MARTIN: All right. You've been talking to people, I imagine, who've been affected by this storm. What are they telling you?

MCCARTHY: Well, you know, if you're living in an evacuation center right now, you're desperate to go back home. And if there's no home to go back to, you're even more desperate and you're even more disappointed. There is a very impressive government bureaucratic machinery that's up and running that tells you the number of homes that were destroyed, where is the flooding, how deep is the flooding. But the issue after all these damage assessments for people is, what's done to fix it all on the ground?

MARTIN: Right.

MCCARTHY: And, of course, that's a very tough question when it comes to something like farming, agriculture. It's estimated that the losses will total nearly $200 million. That's a lot for the Philippines. And I met a 37-year-old farmer, Nelson Lapusan (ph) who lost five acres. They're all underwater. I was standing in the field near his fields today, and there's nothing but this huge lake. He's lost everything. And he says no one from the government has come to see how the farmers are doing. Here he is.

NELSON LAPUSAN: (Foreign language spoken).

MCCARTHY: He says, "I'm dismayed because officials haven't come to see our situation. And that has made it a lot harder for us," he says.

MARTIN: And now the storm moving north into China. We'll see what happens there. NPR's Julie McCarthy reporting from Manila in the Philippines. Julie, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

MCCARTHY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.