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Man, nature share typhoon tragedy blame: experts

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Distraught:A survivor is disappointed when there is not enough room for her on the plane in Tacloban, Philippines, on Tuesday.— PHOTO: AP
Distraught:A survivor is disappointed when there is not enough room for her on the plane in Tacloban, Philippines, on Tuesday.— PHOTO: AP

Nature and man together cooked up the disaster in the Philippines.

Geography, meteorology, poverty, shoddy construction, a booming population, and, to a much lesser degree, climate change, combine to make the Philippines the nation most vulnerable to killer typhoons, according to several scientific studies.

And Typhoon Haiyan was one mighty storm.

“You have a very intense event hitting a very susceptible part of the world. It’s that combination of nature and man,” said MIT tropical meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel. “If one of those ingredients were missing, you wouldn’t have a disaster.”

The 7,000 islands of the Philippines sit in the middle of the world’s most storm-prone region, which gets some of the biggest typhoons because of vast expanses of warm water that act as fuel and few pieces of land to slow storms down.

“You end up with these kind of urban time bombs, where cities have doubled, tripled, quadrupled in size in 50 years” without good building standards, said Richard Olson, director of the Extreme Events Institute at Florida International University. “It is, I hate to say, an all-too-familiar pattern.”

Scientists say man-made global warming has contributed to rising seas and a general increase in strength in the most powerful tropical cyclones.

A 2008 study found that in the northwestern Pacific where Haiyan formed, the top one per cent of the strongest tropical cyclones over the past 30 years are getting on average about one mph stronger each year — a phenomenon some scientists suspect is a consequence of global warming.

“The strongest storms are getting stronger,” said study co-author James Kossin of the National Climatic Data Center.

U.N. appeals for help

Meanwhile, the U.N. has appealed for $300 million to help typhoon victims. The European Commission announced it was upping to €13 million ($17 million) reconstruction aid. — AP


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