As a tropical depression picks up speed in the Pacific Ocean, it has the potential to turn into a cyclone, then a full-fledged typhoon and even a super-typhoon, with massive destruction, injury and loss of human life when it makes landfall. Some typhoons in Asia have wiped out entire residential areas.
General knowledge of a typhoon is important to learning about the worst Asian typhoons
The Pacific Ocean is divided into three regions for categorical purposes. A hurricane is the weather phenomenon that occurs in the eastern Pacific region, which includes the United States. This is why the U.S. has severe weather conditions striking its coast named as a hurricane, and not a typhoon. Hurricanes are also measured differently than typhoons. The Saffir-Simpson Scale, developed by Herbert Saffir and Bob Simpson in the 1970’s, measures hurricanes. It is the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre (RSMC) Cyclone Intensity Scale that is utilized to measure typhoons, as explained in “What are Hurricanes and Typhoons?”
In the Central Pacific and Western Pacific, a tropical cyclone is named as a typhoon when conditions deteriorate as the tropical cyclone heads into the Northwest Pacific. A tropical cyclone occurs when a low pressure system moves over warm tropical or sub-tropical waters with thunderstorm activity and sustained winds of at least 39 miles per hour (mph), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) . In the Northwest Pacific, the tropical cyclone is then said to be a typhoon if sustained surface winds go over 74 mph. If the typhoon continues to pick up wind speed and reaches 150 mph sustained surface winds, the NOAA explains that the typhoon is then designated “super-typhoon.”
Haiphong Typhoon of 1881 is one of the deadliest typhoons ever
On October 8, 1881, a vicious typhoon struck the low-lying city of Haiphong, which is now a part of Vietnam. The University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography Hurricane Science says in “Hurricanes: Science and Society” that the Gulf of Tonkin, situated between Vietnam, Hainan and Mainland China, “provides one of the most frequently used paths for Pacific typhoons originating near the Philippines to strike the Asian Mainland.” The super-typhoon traveled this route and lashed out across the entire coastal area, leaving a path of devastation, which included the deaths of more than 300,000 people. Many of the lives that were lost occurred because residents refused to evacuate when told to do so before the typhoon churned towards them. When the storm surge flooded the entire area, hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Additional deaths occurred from other typhoon-force conditions.
The Haiphong Typhoon is still considered one of the worst Asian typhoons to ever occur. There are other earlier typhoons that are some of the worst to hit Asia, but in the past decade, people across the world have seen the worst typhoons in recent memory batter Asian coastlines.
Typhoon Maemi declared worst typhoon since recordkeeping began
In September 2003, Super Typhoon Maemi made its way towards Japan after initially being considered a slow-moving tropical depression which formed off Guam. However, on September 9, 2003, Maemi had gained momentum near Okinawa and on September 10th, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), it was “one of the strongest typhoons ever.” Maemi slammed into Sacheon, which is in South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea and devastated cities along its path, flooding over 42,000 homes and wiping out businesses, farmland, roads and bridges. The typhoon left behind nearly $5 billion in damage and killed nearly 130 people. Typhoon Maimi is considered Korea’s strongest typhoon “since meteorological record-keeping began in 1904.”
Super Typhoon Durian results in massive destruction and loss of life
When Super Typhoon Durian slammed into the Philippines on November 30, 2006, it "covered whole villages," according to the Pacific Disaster Center. The villages were buried due to mudslides from Mount Mayon Volcano on Luzon. After leaving heavy destruction and hundreds of dead and missing, Durian went out into the South China Sea. As it initially started weakening, it regained strength and made landfall again, this time in Vietnam. Dozens were killed and considerable damage done in Vietnam. Once again, Super Typhoon Durian turned to sea, leaving nearly 1500 dead, some of whom were buried in mass graves to prevent development and spread of disease. Durian caused nearly $15 billion in damages.
Super Typhoon Saomai declared worst China typhoon in decades
In August 2006, Super Typhoon Saomai swept across the Philippines, killing several people and leaving hundreds of homes destroyed by the accompanying storm surge. Typhoon Saomai slammed into China’s Fujian Province with sustained winds ranging from 120 to 160 mph. The hardest hit area of Fudig City was so devastated that the Epoch Times reported people were heard screaming throughout the city and that dead bodies could be seen “still floating in the sea.”
Several media sources reported a cover-up by the Chinese Government regarding the actual damage in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Saomai. Reports of the true damage was leaked to the press by residents, who told media sources that they were not even provided with a typhoon warning. USA Today quoted the Xinhua News Agency as stating that residents put the death toll at more than 1,000, which was more than three times the death toll given by Chinese officials at the time of the report. Typhoon Saomai was the worst typhoon to hit China in more than 50 years.
While typhoons are common in Asia, certain areas are more prone than others. With advance warnings given to residents in the path of a typhoon, residents and business owners as well as government leaders usually have time to plan accordingly, including evacuating to a safe area. But when residents refuse to heed warnings and remain in the path of an approaching typhoon or when government leaders fail to warn people effectively, the destruction and loss of life may be greater than when appropriate warning and planning is exercised.