New Internationalist

Of typhoons, climate change and rainy nights

It is 6 pm in Manila and everybody’s waiting to go home. It is raining nonstop. The waters are rising. And they’re rising fast. The roads are turning into huge parking spaces because of heavy traffic.

Commuters are stranded. Giant billboards are dropping like flies. Umbrellas of different colours and sizes are turning upside down. Journalists are scrambling to cover the whole ordeal.

Winds are gushing fiercely and the sight of heavy rains is blinding the drowning earth.  

For a few months of the year, without fail, typhoons are daily fare in a tropical country like the Philippines. Filipinos deal with this by having enough rain gear, some candles and safety matches at home and a lot of patience.

But nothing has ever been the same since September 2009, when killer storm Ketsana, known locally as Ondoy, battered much of the country, leaving hundreds dead, thousands homeless and many others deeply traumatized.

So tonight, unlike other stormy evenings, the whole country waits with bated breath.

Tropical storm Megi, known locally as Juan, has hit the northern province of Isabela, according to the weather bureau. Flights to the region have been cancelled and a huge part of the telecommunications system may have been knocked off.

Isabela is a place far north. This and nearby provinces are the country’s rice bowl. As such, needless to say, the country’s rice production may be severely affected.

Weather bureau officials call our uninvited guest this year’s ‘world’s strongest typhoon’.

The flooding in the streets of Manila, the Philippine capital, is fast and furious – a clear indication of the effects of climate change and environmental degradation.

In the Philippines, like in many other developing countries, citizens have neglected the urgency to properly dispose of waste, resulting in severe damage to the environment.

This is worsened by the fact that the world’s temperature is rising. Oceans are getting warmer and when they do, the water expands and the sea levels rise. Flooding is inevitable.

Experts say that the rise in the water level is attributed to the melting of glaciers. Yes, it’s happening.

While all this is happening, my friends and colleagues, who experienced the wrath of Ondoy last year, are restless and nervous.

It is 11.15 pm and the rain goes on. In the past, I usually enjoyed the sound of the rain tapping on the roof. But tonight, I can’t sleep. I share the fear of many others.

We are, after all, at the mercy of another killer storm. There’s no Noah’s Ark for us to hide away in. Tonight, there’s just nothing but rain.


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