A super typhoon that rapidly formed in just 48 hours is threatening both the Philippines and Taiwan with destructive winds and torrential rains over the coming days.
Chanthu (“Kiko” in the Philippines) was about 580 kilometers southeast of Taiwan’s southernmost tip on Friday morning, packing gusts of up to 234 kilometers an hour, according to Taiwan’s central weather bureau.
The Philippine state weather agency said the typhoon was expected to graze the northeastern tip of the country later Friday.
The agency warned of “destructive” winds in Santa Ana town, where around 35,000 people live, and the eastern part of the remote Babuyan Islands.
Rough seas will throw up 2.5 to 10-metre waves, it added.
The Cagayan governor has ordered government and private sector workers, except those in frontline services, to stay home and “fortify” their houses, said Rogelio Sending, the provincial information officer.
Most projections forecast the storm will then continue to swing northeast and could hit Taiwan directly over the weekend.
“It will be closest to Taiwan on Saturday and Sunday. (The public) should take precautions against strong winds and downpours,” said Taiwanese forecaster Hsu Chung-yi.
Meteorologists have marvelled at how quickly Chanthu morphed into a powerful storm after it first emerged on Monday in between Guam and the Philippines.
“Chanthu went from a depression to a cat(egory)-5-equivalent typhoon in 48 hours,” Sam Lillo, a researcher at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote on Twitter.
Only five other storms, all this century, have done that, he added.
Over just two days, Chanthu’s wind speeds went from 30 miles per hour to 160 miles per hour at their height.
Bishops condole with families of victims
The Catholic bishops of the Philippines has earlier expressed their condolences to the families of the victims of typhoon “Jolina” (international code name: Conson) that devastated some areas in the central part of the country this week.
The bishops noted that the typhoon “destroyed homes, opened economic deficiencies, left people missing, and unfortunately, declared a number of victims as deceased.”
“On behalf of the bishops of the Philippines, I offer my condolences to those bereaved,” read the bishops’ statement signed by Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the bishops’ conference.
“May the souls of those who died be looked upon by God with mercy and compassion,” added the prelate.
“As one Church, I invite all of you to pray for our fellow Filipinos who were affected by the typhoon so that they may feel hope amidst their suffering,” said Archbishop Valles.
The bishops also urged the Filipino faithful to “continue to strive under the hardship dictated by the pandemic” and to open their hearts “to look upon our neighbors who are in a great need.”
Earlier, the dioceses in the province of Samar in the central Philippines appealed for help after several areas were badly hit by the typhoon.
Father James Abella, social action director of the Diocese of Borongan, said people were surprised with the intensity of the typhoon.
“The transition was fast, from tropical depression, tropical storm, severe tropical typhoon, into typhoon, all on the same day,” he said in an interview with Veritas 846 on Friday, September 10.
The priest said several houses were destroyed, especially those who are still staying in temporary shelters.
“There were churches and chapels that were also affected, but we are thankful that there were no casualties,” said Father Abella.
In the Diocese of Calbayog, there was a landslide in a village in the city of Catbalogan while two island parishes were affected and several motorboats were destroyed on Daram island.
The death toll in the aftermath of tropical storm “Jolina” climbed to 14, according to the disaster management agency in Manila.
The agency also said that five of the 12 missing fishermen in Catbalogan, Samar, were rescued while three more fishermen were reported missing in Culuba, Biliran.
Meanwhile, 20 individuals were reported injured, according to the agency.
It also said at least 28,400 families or 109,680 persons have been affected by the heavy rains and strong winds of Jolina.
The weather disturbance also damaged 6,423 houses in Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Regions 5, 6, and Eastern Visayas—301 of which were totally destroyed, the report said.
Scientists have long warned that typhoons are becoming more powerful, and strengthening more rapidly, as the world becomes warmer because of man-made climate change.
“This week, Super Typhoon Chanthu provided another stark example of how quickly a storm can strengthen,” NASA wrote in an article about the storm on its Earth Observatory blog.
A super typhoon is also known as a category five hurricane in the US. The Earth tends to experience around five storms of that power a year.
Meteorologists say that while Chanthu is powerful, it is small in size and will be unpredictable.
“Small tropical cyclones are capable of very rapid intensity changes, both strengthening and weakening,” hurricane scientist Jeff Masters wrote on Yale Climate Connections.
Taiwan is regularly hit by tropical storms in the summer months.
In a rare exception to the rule, not a single typhoon made landfall last year, the first time in 56 years.
That helped fuel the worst drought in decades until heavy rains set in a few months ago and brought needed relief.
The Hong Kong Observatory’s projection has Chanthu reducing from a super to a severe typhoon on Sunday as it nears Taiwan’s southeastern coast. – with a report from Agence France Presse