The Philippines faced yet more loss of life and economic destruction today as Typhoon Yolanda (known internationally as Typhoon Hainan) made landfall at 4 a.m. local time, bringing with it wind gusts of more than 200 miles per hour and a storm front of over 370 miles.
The super-typhoon was described as probably the most powerful storm ever to make landfall, causing transport chaos across the country and threatening a humanitarian disaster.
Waves of 15 meters (about 50 feet) and storm surges of up to seven meters were battering the coast this morning with 400 mm (about 15-3/4 inches) of rain and flash floods expected in central and southern Philippines.
Large swathes of Visayas and Mindanao were in shutdown mode this morning, with communications systems decimated and highways blocked due to fallen trees preventing relief reaching the injured and homeless as whole towns were washed away. At Yolanda’s center, some 15 miles wide, weather experts said it was as potent and as deadly as a tornado.
Cebu, where thousands are already in temporary accommodation following a deadly earthquake on October 15, was due to feel the full brunt of the storm this afternoon local time.
As JOC went to press, domestic and international flights had been cancelled and ports closed in the Visayas and Mindanao regions, although major industrial areas in Luzon including metro Manila were expected to escape the worst of Yolanda, which is forecast to continue onward this weekend to central Vietnam and Laos.
Jake Cuerva, president and managing director of GAC Philippines, told the JOC that logistics operations, all government and the majority of private offices in Cebu were closed.
“Batangas is closed,” he said. “Some ports in Southern Philippines like Tacloban and Cebu are also closed.”
Almost all international and domestic flights to and from major cities in the Southern Philippines were cancelled today, and flights and sailings from Luzon and Manila were seeing increasing disruption as the day wore on.
In Manila, Asian Terminal Inc. suspended its yard and vessels operations at 7 a.m. this morning, according to a DHL spokesman.
DHL Global Forwarding (Philippines) said that it was operating normally except at its Cebu branch, where local authorities had ordered suspension of work at both private and public offices. The company said it has a business continuity plan in place to sustain its business in the face of disruptions.
Customs operations at Manila were due to cease at 3 p.m. today but were operating as normal at the port of Davao for most of the day.
Other ports closed today, according to the Philippines Port Authority, were the following: Ormoc, Baybay in Leyte, Palompon in Leyte, Naval in Biliran, Isabel in Leyte, Surigao, Lipata in Surigao, Poctoy, Lucena, Tabaco, Masbate, Albay, Legazpi, Tagbilaran and Dumaguete.
“Because we have been fore-warned of the typhoon, we have been able to mitigate the impact,” said Erry Hardianto, managing director, Maersk Line, Philippines. “The worst-hit area is the port in Cebu, which has been closed since yesterday morning. Cebu local government has declared closure of all offices since yesterday afternoon as well.
“Manila South Harbour has been closed since this morning, but the North Harbour is still pending a decision on whether to close later today,” he said. “For the closed ports, we have no choice but to wait it out, especially for the safety of our staff. A decision about whether we are closing our Manila office as well, will be taken today.”
TNT said the storm would affect its operations in Cebu, Iloilo and Bacolod in the Central Visayas region, and as of the morning of November 8, flights to Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod and Cagayan de Oro were canceled due to the severity of the storm. The company is operating normally in Manila and San Fernando, Davao and General Santos in Mindanao, and it expects normal operations to resume in the Central Visayas once Yolanda passes.
According to BDP International’s Global Network affiliate in the Philippines, CNT, most brokerage operations were moving to obtain customs clearance and the delivery of shipments that had already been processed in advance of office closures in Manila and at the ports. Shipments not delivered in time will be stored at CNT’s warehouse, with deliveries expected to resume tomorrow.
The Philippines economy has been beset by natural disasters in the last year. In December 2012, Typhoon Bopha (also designated Pablo) killed more than a 1,000 people and caused $1.7 billion in damage, including the destruction in the Davao region of some 15,000 hectares of Cavendish banana plantations, a major export from the country and a mainstay of the reefer maritime trade. In August of this year, Typhoon Trami caused an estimated $2.2 billion in damage and killed 18 people.
After the Philippines, the typhoon’s projected course takes it to landfall in Vietnam. CK Chan, general manager of BDP International in Vietnam, told the JOC that the company is engaged in contingency planning and is monitoring the storm’s trajectory. If the typhoon strikes Vietnam on Sunday or Monday, BDP plans to communicate with its clients, partners and others regarding the operational status of transport, customs clearance and all affiliate agencies to mitigate the impact of the storm.
Contact Mike King at email@example.com.