Sandy's lessons for Asia Storm
As Hurricane Sandy battered New York and the US Atlantic coast last week, another fierce tropical storm was sweeping through the South China Sea. Meanwhile, a cyclone churned across the Bay of Bengal, veering away from Sri Lanka at the last minute before striking south-east India, causing extensive damage.
Although much smaller in strength and size than Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Son-tinh that smashed into the northern Philippines, Vietnam and southern China killed as many as 30 people, forced more than 176,000 to leave their homes, and caused an estimated US$145 million (S$177 million) in economic damage as electricity outage, floods and landslides disrupted normal life.
It was a reminder that cyclonic storms, drawing their destructive power from warming tropical waters and the moisture-laden atmosphere, are more of a menace in the Asia-Pacific region than anywhere else in the world.
Known as hurricanes in the Caribbean and North America’s Atlantic coast, and cyclones or typhoons in the South China Sea, Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, these periodic storms are posing a major economic and social challenge to the Asia-Pacific region, according to a recent United Nations report.
Presented last month to a ministerial conference in Indonesia on disaster risk reduction, the report warned that as regional growth and urbanisation exploded in the past few decades, the number of people living in cyclone-prone areas has nearly doubled, to about 121 million.