10 Environmental Effects of Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan was recorded as the biggest negative environmental hit to the Philippines nation. In this article, we are going to look at the environmental effects of Typhoon Haiyan on the nation of the Philippines.

Typhoons are known as tropical cyclones or hurricanes and are among the most violent weather events, causing high costs and losses in any area. The Philippines is one of the most typhoon-impacted countries globally, with about 20 tropical cyclones traversing the country’s area of responsibility each year.

Typhoons are categorized into five categories based on the Saffir-Sampson Hurricane Wind Scales.

These categories are based on sustained wind speeds. Categories 1 and 2 are destructive, with winds between 74 and 95 mph and 96 and 110 mph, respectively.

When there is a further increase in the wind speed, the storm can be updated to Category 3, with speeds between 111 and 129 mph, and Category 4, with wind speeds between 130 and 156 mph. These categories are known as the catastrophic categories.

When sustained winds reach or go beyond 157 mph, it will become a Category 5, a storm that causes pure devastation. Typhoon Haiyan was in Category 5 when it hit the Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded; it was also the second deadliest typhoon recorded in the Philippines, after Typhoon Haiphong in 1881. Typhoon Haiyan is also known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, close to Tacloban, on November 8, 2013, at 4.40 am. On November 2, 2013, a low-pressure area developed in the Pacific Ocean, which was upgraded to a tropical storm named Haiyan on November 4.

The movement of the storm was onward, eventually making landfall in the Philippines on November 8 at 4:40 am local time as a Category 5 storm. Wind speeds of 314 kilometres per hour (195 miles per hour) were recorded.

When the storm passed, more than 14 million people were heavily affected by the path of Typhoon Haiyan, it is one of the most powerful typhoons to affect the Philippines.

Environmental Effects of Typhoon Haiyan

10 Environmental Effects of Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan had a devastating effect not only on humans but on the environment as well. Below is a quick discussion on the effects the typhoons on the environment in the Philippines.

  • Damage to Infrastructure and Buildings
  • Impact on Agriculture
  • Loss of Human Lives
  • Water Pollution
  • Loss of Marine Life
  • Strong Winds and Waves
  • Flooding
  • Deforestation
  • Disease Outbreak
  • Landslide

1. Damage to Infrastructure and Buildings

Due to the intensity of the typhoon, about 1.1 million homes were badly damaged or destroyed, and particularly around Eastern and Western Visayas (Philippines), 4.1 million people became homeless.

Other buildings and infrastructure were also damaged; Power lines were damaged; Communication was down, etc. The Tacloban Airport in Leyte Province (Philippines) was damaged, all as a result of the typhoon occurrence.

2. Impact on Agriculture

It was estimated that about 1.1 million tonnes of crops were destroyed and around 600,000 hectares of farmland were affected. Over 3/4 of farmers and fishers lost their income, which is equivalent to a loss of $724 million.

Furthermore, even though harvest season was over, rice and seeds were lost in the storm surges, which is equal to a loss of $53 million. The overall cost of damage was estimated at $12 billion. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice were destroyed.

3. Loss of Human Lives

Typhoon Haiyan caused an estimated 6,300 deaths in the Philippines. Many deaths were due to injuries but it is unclear what role the environment played in mortality.

The Philippines faced a humanitarian crisis days after the typhoon hit much of the Visayas with 1.9 million homeless and more than 6,000,000 displaced.

A total of 14.1 million people were affected, and 6,190 people lost their lives. To this day, there are still people missing.

4. Water Pollution

At Estancia, an oil barge was stranded, leaking a staggering 800,000 liters of oil. The oil contaminated 10 hectares of mangroves 10km inland! Seawater, chemicals, and sewerage contaminated surfaces and groundwater. Oil and sewerage leaked into the local ecosystems.

Also, a lack of sanitation in the days following the event led to a higher level of water pollution. Furthermore, Typhoon Haiyan brought salty seawater, which caused harm to the crops on their farmlands. And also causes leakage of electricity as salt water is conductive.

5. Loss of Marine Life

Just like stated above, an oil tanker ran aground, causing an 800,000-litre oil leak that contaminated fishing waters. The oil contaminated the waters, killing marine life, and it caused a stop to fishing.

The damage to marine life caused a shortage of supply in marine food; hence, food was found in small quantities. Over one-third of farmers and fishermen lost their income, leading to a total loss of $724 million.

Most importantly this abrupt damage led to the extinction of species in the aquatic environment. Fishing communities were also been severely affected by the storm destroying boats and associated equipment.

6. Strong Winds and Waves

When the typhoon made landfall, it produced powerful winds and waves. These strong winds and waves were driven by rapid changes in atmospheric pressure near the eye, which creates a large pressure gradient force.

These winds and waves are one of the most devastating and consistent negative effects experienced.

7. Flooding

This effect is caused by the torrential rainfall, which occurs as a direct result of the typhoon itself. There was a 5-metre storm surge in Leyte and Tacloban (Philippines). Furthermore, both places were affected by 400mm of rainfall which flooded the area up to 1km inland.

The flooding damaged people’s houses, ruined crop fields, caused surface and groundwater to be contaminated with seawater, debris, industrial and agricultural chemicals, and sewage systems, and finally, caused a loss of life.

8. Deforestation

Debris and downed trees blocked the roads. The typhoon damaged 1.1 million houses, destroyed 33 million coconut trees (a major source of livelihood), and pushed approximately 2.3 million people into poverty. Overall damage was estimated at $13 billion.

9. Disease Outbreak

Diseases and pests are often found after floods and further damage crops. This is another very devastating effect that threatens the lives of the people in typhoon-damaged areas. In Typhoon Haiyan, infections and diseases spread, mainly due to contaminated surfaces and groundwater.

There were worries about substantial outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, which would only increase the death toll. The WHO (World Health Organisation) and other relief agencies took prompt actions to ensure that such outbreaks were kept isolated and to a minimum level.

People, especially in poorer areas, cannot get rid of the disease because of a lack of medical support. Furthermore, the amount of money that has to be put into buying a cure has accrued to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

10. Landslide

Landslides are caused by the precipitation that is present when a typhoon hits an area. Landslides occur when large amounts of water have settled on mountaintops.

The intense pressure of the water pressing down causes soil and rocks to slide off from where they are. A landslide was seen occurring at its peak during the typhoon occurrence in the Philippines.


It took a considerable amount of time to recover from Typhoon Haiyan. With all these immediate issues discussed above and long-term social, economic, and environmental impacts that had to be addressed. Some of them were dealt with quickly, while some long-term issues took years before they were addressed.

The good news is that, five years after the storm, the Philippines and Tacloban in particular have recovered and things are back to normal. It was a devastating year for the Philippine nation.


Environmental Consultant at Environment Go! | + posts

Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.

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