Philippines: China Humiliated By Typhoon Haiyan

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November 17, 2013: Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest tropical storm (to make landfall) on record (which only goes back about a century for precise reporting) disrupted the lives of over ten percent of the Filipino population (96 million) when it hit on the 8th. The islands of Samar and Leyte quickly became a disaster zone, with electricity out and many roads rendered impassable. Typhoons (Pacific hurricanes) are regular events for the Philippines, which is a few hundred kilometers west of where most of them originate. But Haiyan was exceptionally strong, with winds of over 310 kilometers an hour (surpassing a record set by an Atlantic hurricane that hit the United States in 1969). Typhoon Haiyan appears to have killed over 4,000 people (and injured three times as many) in the Philippines and caused over a billion dollars in damage. Most of this was caused by a record winds and a 4.5 meter (15 foot) storm surge that flooded areas that had previously been immune to this kind of storm damage. Over two million people are cut off from food supplies. Nearly as many have been forced from their homes and many of those homes are now damaged or destroyed by the winds and floods.

The storm gave Filipino allies (especially the United States) and neighboring nations an opportunity to demonstrate disaster relief capabilities. This has become a big deal for the military, which over the last decade has gone from a regular chore for the local military to one where the major powers quickly show up via warships and military air transports to help out. The U.S. is particularly notable in this area because of its fleet of over twenty aircraft and helicopter carriers (the latter being amphibious operations support ships). The helicopters, landing craft, technical personnel (especially medical), and electrical generating capability of these ships saves a lot of lives and provides very visible American assistance.

Typhoon Haiyan turned out to be something of a disaster for China, which initially offered paltry help ($200,000 worth, less than some corporations) and soon increased the aid ten-fold under pressure from international and Chinese media. China has always used its own military for natural disasters inside China and has gotten a lot more effective at it in the last decade as the army got better equipment (especially engineering gear and new trucks) and the air force received more helicopters and air transports. Noting how useful, and popular, this sort of relief work is inside China, troops now plan and practice for this kind of work, especially in areas subject to earthquakes or typhoons. As a result of this, which became international news, much more was expected of China, which has the largest military in the region. But now that military force is being seen as reserved for bullying the neighbors over territorial disputes, not helping neighbors in need. This is a major defeat for China in the diplomatic and image area and will hurt as the territorial disputes between China and the Philippines head for an international tribunal. This is something China always wanted to avoid, but now it really, really wants to avoid this.

November 15, 2013: In nearby Malaysia (Sabah) a Taiwanese tourist was killed and his wife kidnapped by what local police believe was a gang of Abu Sayyaf rebels from the Philippines. Collecting ransoms has become a major source of cash for Islamic terrorists on Sulu and other islands in the south where they are active. Sabah is near these southern islands and Filipino criminals have been seen operating in Sabah before but usually with more discretion. Killing and kidnapping foreigners is a high profile crime, and now Sabah will be too hot for Abu Sayyaf. Police and troops in the southern Philippines will also be out looking for the kidnapped Taiwanese woman, who is thought to be held in Sulu or some other island in the area.

November 14, 2013: A U.S. Navy carrier task force showed up off the storm hit Leyte Island with a 100,000 ton nuclear powered carrier, six other ships, and 21 helicopters.

November 12, 2013: In the south (city of Tacloban) hungry typhoon victims attacked a food warehouse and looted it. Eight of those seeking food were killed when a wall collapsed. Criminal gangs are becoming more of a problem in the storm-damaged city, and gunfire is more frequently heard (especially at night). This is interfering with relief operations. Outside the city troops killed two NPA rebels who were part of a local NPA force that tried to hijack trucks carrying relief supplies.

The U.S. ordered two amphibious ships (small carriers with helicopters) to leave their bases in Japan and head for the Philippines to help with typhoon relief. This will more than double the number of American helicopters in the area. The amphibious ships also carry trucks and landing craft that are very useful for relief work.

November 8, 2013: Typhoon Haiyan moved in from the east and hit the central Philippines (the islands of Samar and Leyte).

November 7, 2013: MILF made it clear that after the peace deal with the government is completed MILF will continue to exist but as a political party not an armed militia.

November 5, 2013: In the south (Sulu Island) Abu Sayyaf rebels kidnapped two telephone company workers who were out maintaining cell phone towers. Marines in the area quickly went looking for the kidnappers.

November 2, 2013: In the north (Albay province) troops clashed several times with NPA rebels, leaving four soldiers and a number of rebels wounded and at least six rebels dead.

In the south (Mindanao Island) police arrested a local NPA leader after an extensive investigation. 

 

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