Time has been flying so fast these days. Year 2009 opened with a massive change when Barack Obama was inaugurated as US President. Coupled with his first year as president were the descent of the US economy, the scare of the human swine influenza virus, deaths of prominent personalities, and series of storms that hit the globe. It seems it was just yesterday. But what if I say that these events were already known by beforehand? Funny thing, right? And creepy as well.
A psychic named Joseph Greenfield from the tabloid Bandera publishes his prediction every time the year opens, and in January 2009 came out his fearless forecast of the year’s climate condition. A person reading it on the day of its publication may just ignore it but to a curious person who may want to test its truth, this is a great shock.
“Sa tag-ulan, sa mga buwan ng Hulyo, Agosto at Setyembre…kambal na sama ng panahon ang mabubuo sa Polilio Island sa Quezon, raragasa ang supertyphoon na ito sa Metro Manila, at Gitnang Luzon, magdadala ng malalakas na hangin at pagbaha. Ano pa’t sa panahong iyon, lulubog ang malaking bahagi ng Luzon at Metro Manila…,” Greenfield predicts in the January issue of Bandera.
And in the last quarter of 2009, there came the twin typhoons, Ondoy and Pepeng.
These typhoon buddies had companions. Climate experts call it the 2009 Pacific typhoon season, having recorded at least 41 typhoons coming only from the Pacific Ocean. It is only fitting, perhaps, to discuss disasters as it significantly defined how we lived our 2009, for better or for worse. Here are some of the most painful disasters that sickened Earth in the previous year, examining them by month:
January. There was absolutely no fiesta in Guatemala as they celebrated New Year when at least 33 people died in a landslide in the northern part of the region on January 5. Even worse, rescue operations failed to recover the entire number of victims in the 1.5 km wide landslide. “The landslide is so big, we don’t have much hope of recovering many more bodies,” a Guatemalan mayor said to BBC News.
Then we travel west to the small Pacific island named Fiji when a heavy flood mercilessly killed at least two people in the country including a three-year old girl. Similar to what happened during Ondoy’s rage, 400 millimeter of rainfall poured on the Western side of the area within just 12 hours causing major roads to be blocked and rescue operations to be crippled. What made it even more difficult was the obstruction of making immediate decisions because of the military form of government dominant in Fiji since 2006. Other disasters included the earthquake in Costa Rica, floods in Ecuador, and a cold wave in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Africa, the land covered most by hot deserts, too, wasn’t spared. Two tropical cyclones hit Madagascar only within a month.
February. An article from the web published this headline on the first week of February, “Solomon Islands unprepared for flood disaster.” Who would be, as floods are natural disasters, and mostly unexpected. However, with the kind government present in the area, a good one would serve as a haven of relief which the country did not have. When flood struck Solomon Islands on February 5, people were unprepared, some still peacefully asleep as the tragedy occurred as early as 2 in the morning.
“It happened so fast and all I can remember was that we were washed away by the flood from the river that runs not far from us,” Renata Kakae, one of the survivors, said in an interview by wsws.org.
Other countries that were slapped by flood and mudslides during the month were Costa Rica, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bolivia.
The month of love wasn’t only meant for storms and floods but also for tragedies that may entirely be natural superficially but experts said that part of it were also caused by the faults of man. When China was about to light up the sky with its very own firecrackers in celebration of Chinese New Year, it was toppled by a wave of drought. Authorities were not able to minimize the impact of the drought because of the bulk of its population, therefore leaving about 4 million people thirsty for water supplies. A ‘rare drought in human history’, this was the term given to the catastrophe.
March. This month marks the beginning of summer which people who have suffered from flood would long for; that is why the primary source of this article, ReliefWeb (www.reliefweb.int), recorded March having bagged the least number of natural disasters. That’s good news.
Countries that have perished from fearsome flooding were Peru, Colombia, and Indonesia. Among these three, it was the last country which has rendered the most deaths. Unfortunately for us, Asians. It was on the 27th of March when at least 50 people died in the massive flooding following torrential storms. The event was even worsened when an old dam built in the 1900’s collapsed hitting its capital, Jakarta, the most populous city in Southeast Asia.
In an article from Toronto Sun, Cecep Rahman, a 63-year old citizen from Indonesia was said to have lost his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in the disaster.
“The tide was so strong, like a tsunami. There was nothing I could do,” he said.
April. Madagascar has been blessed by a rather magnificent biodiversity like the Philippines but it is vulnerable to calamities. Let us welcome the island once more in another appearance on our list. At exactly 12 midnight on April 8, a tropical cyclone named Jade struck the African island leaving at least three people dead, two children and their mother, and 800 homeless. Flood and landslides then followed the storm during the wee hours of the night.
Not far from Indian Ocean, on where Madagascar beds, the month also gave birth to Bijli, a tropical cyclone that devastated Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar in the duration of its run. The first fatality was of a 9-year old boy in Bangladesh when he was knocked down by a wind-blown tree. The cyclone’s eye has courageously poured shocking figures of impacts. All in all, the cyclone destroyed 500 houses, 1,500 betel leaf plantations, and flooded 70,000 acres of cropland according to Wikipedia’s account. Seven people were killed and 84 were injured in Bangladesh alone.
May. In this month, the focus will once again be on the Caribbean with the nation of Honduras suffering from a double-whammy. 28th of May marked what one of the worst disasters was probably that have struck the region when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake shook the northern coast of the country leaving six people dead. A Honduran pointed out from a CNN report that for 14 years of his residence there, it was indeed the worst quake. And being the worst, there would undoubtedly be an anticipation of a foredooming quake, beneath the sea. The US Geological survey said that the land quake had triggered a tsunami alert for three Central American countries sparking fear over the Caribbean region.
June. Unbelievable this may seem, authorities recorded deaths of 250 children under five years old. This isn’t the Industrial Age but this points out to one culprit of the modern age, the cold wave in Peru. Nothing would be worse than this one in the Third World nation as it caused 50,000 to suffer from acute respiratory illness, and 4,581 with pneumonia only in the month of June according to an article from Formae Mentis (formaementis.wordpress.com). The cold wave did not end until the month of September.
The rest of recorded worst disasters of June was aimed towards flooding in various parts of the world namely in China, Central African Republic, Guatemala, Czech Republic, and Botswana.
July. In most tropical countries, July marks the start of the stormy season when people begin to be more conscious of storm signals, and in flood-vulnerable areas, some initiate the ascension of furniture to the higher level floors of houses. Meanwhile, let us take a glance at the downbeat situations that have occurred in the rest of the world.
India, the 2nd most populous country, in the world, had its 1.5 million people affected in the July 23 floods killing at least 441 people. Another South Asian nation, Bangladesh, illustrated situations where men stand up in line passing over mounds of mud to create an artificial flood barrier for the affected low-lying islands.
In Pakistan, at least 26 people were killed by the rage of floods in Karachi, Pakistan’s financial centre. The casualties were caused either by drowning, electrocution, or due to the collapse of roofs. On the other hand, 22 died in Nepal in two-day duration of rains.
August. A storm surge encompassing the whole of Taiwan, it is true. It was 3 a.m. on August 7 when the deadliest storm recorded in Taiwanese history hit the nation and left 738 confirmed deaths. The storm was moving in a fast wind speed of 148 km/h pace and gustiness at 185 km/h. The typhoon also brought impacts to nearby countries like the Philippines, Japan, and China’s east coast from where about 1 million Chinese fled due to fear of being killed.
“I must have survived for a reason” was the phrase uttered by one Sri Lankan citizen upon being hugely damaged by a flash flood in the country as well as in Pakistan where 1,000 houses have been wiped out.
Other August floods occurred in African nations of Senegal, Mauritania, and Sudan.
September. If there could be a month in 2009 that the Filipinos would want to be eradicated, it would be the month of September. Not because of the union of Mar and Korina’s love but the wrath of Ondoy. Typhoon Ketsana, its international name, was regarded as the ‘worst tropical depression’ leaving hundreds of people dead and damaging about P30 billion worth of properties. Quezon City resident Luz Celestial, 78, said that throughout her life, this has been the worst typhoon she has ever encountered. Not reaching an entire day, the rains have caused most parts of Metro Manila to be submerged in floodwaters.
Also condemned by natural disasters was the hometown of Hollywood, in California, USA where the name “Jimena” would be treated as a curse. “Jimena” has been the name given to horrible hurricanes coming from the Pacific since 1979. There had been four Jimena’s that have hit the United States beginning from that year and the youngest of them, born on September 2009, was the second strongest tropical cyclone or hurricane of last year. Fortunately, there was only one recorded casualty but what made it adverse was the amount of damage reaching up to $ 59.8.
October. Philippines is famous during this month with the occurrence of back-to-back typhoons, Pepeng (Parma) and Santi (Mirinae). However, this is not something that Filipinos ought to be delightful about. Typhoon Pepeng claimed 465 lives and destroyed properties, mostly agricultural, amounting to US$ 567. The typhoon also landed to neighboring countries of Vietnam, Taiwan and China.
Meanwhile, during the advent of the Halloween season in the Philippines, tropical storm Santi hit the Philippines killing 106 people. Vietnam, Cambodia, and Northern Marianas Islands were the other nations affected by the typhoon.
November. Fate may be kind to the Philippine archipelago this month blessing us with a fair weather but balance shall not be compromised. On November 8, Hurricane Ida lashed the United States.
“It’s not what we expected,” said Kathleen Weisser, a nurse from Fernley, Nevada in an article from NBC online news, “We wanted sun. Instead we have liquid sunshine.”
As America enters the winter season, the South American country of Ecuador seems to be on its way towards its hottest month. The drought in Ecuador in November 2009 was seen to be the worst in the last 40 years. Hundreds of people died and caused massive power blackouts. It may be centered in Ecuador but the drought has also affected Guatemala, Venezuela, and Bolivia.
December. This is the season of giving and of reconciliation but definitely not with Mother Nature. As the year ends, less typhoons may have been prevailed but they were replaced by other disasters as earthquakes and volcanic lava surges. In Malawi, an earthquake killed three and injured hundreds when it socked at 1:19 am. Victims included students sleeping in a dormitory at a government school, an article from Fox News Online said.
Mother Nature has been rather a disciplinary figure to all of the people last year seeing her rages in every month of 2009. As the year closed, the Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark was a perfect time for what have transpired in the previous year leading to a ‘meaningful agreement’ between nations, rich and poor.
“We have made a start,” says Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Great Britain (Wikipedia). The people must mot waste the outcome of the conference.
If there will be what we call as huling hirit (last force), that would have to be the threat of the Mayon Volcano leaving fear to the Filipino race. It has impeded a Christmas celebration at home by the people affected. But we must still be thankful for Nature had a heart; it refused to let the volcano mash out ashes. That great gift served as a reflection for all our undertakings, urging us to change.
People in the evacuation centers have spent their Christmas there. But who knows if the people liked it better. Better for they were together, better for they have realized that in these times, the local government would never leave them unaided. And better for they were safe and sound.
2009 indeed changed the way we live. Apparently we not only live in interesting times, but also dangerous times as well. As we enter 2010 optimistic and joyful, hopefully we would not forget the lessons we have learned from our nerve-wracking travails through disaster and calamity in 2009.
Sources/Interview Excerpts: ABS-CBN News (abs-cbnnews.com), BBC (news.bbc.co.uk), CNN (cnn.com), Formae Mentis (formaementis.wordpress.com), Fox News (foxnews.com), MSNBC (msnbc.com), NY Times (nytimes.com), Relief Web (reliefweb.int), Toronto Sun (torontosun.com), Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org), wsws.org,