Two Typhoons Slam into Eastern Asia; Powerful Earthquake Strikes Japan

August 10, 2009

Typhoon Morakot wreaked havoc in Taiwan over the weekend, making landfall late on Friday in Taiwan’s Hualien County with sustained winds of 148 km/h (92 mph).

“As of Friday, Morakot had generated only 100 mm (4 in) of precipitation in Taipei and the heaviest rainbands were to the south of the storm’s center,” said Dr. Peter Sousounis, principal scientist, atmospheric science at catastrophe risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide. “By Saturday afternoon, however, some of the precipitation totals had become fairly impressive, with some locations recording more than 1,000 mm (40 in). Alishan station in Chiayi County in the southern part of Taiwan recorded nearly 2800 mm (110 in). While Taipei was largely spared — 150 mm (6 in) total through Sunday — Kaoshiung, another major city to the south, reported more than 780 mm (31 in).”

Agricultural losses from this storm will undoubtedly be high. More than 33,000 hectares (130 sq. mi) of farmland were flooded and Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture has already estimated some NT$4.22 billion ($128.6 million) in agricultural losses.

In the resort town of Chihpen, in Taitung province, a six-story hotel collapsed into a swollen river that had washed away the building’s moorings. Some 200 homes and an elementary school in the village of Hsiaolin are thought to have been buried in a mudslide. Elsewhere, roads and bridges were washed away, cutting off whole towns.

Morakot went on to make landfall in mainland China’s Zhejiang province on Sunday afternoon, bringing winds of 83 km/h (51 mph) and torrential rain. In advance of the storm’s arrival, thousands of fishing boats had been called in to port and nearly a million people had been evacuated from the coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian. “Although interaction with the central mountains of Taiwan had weakened Morakot to tropical storm strength, some 1,800 homes in Zheijiang province are reported to have collapsed or been washed away,” said Dr. Sousounis. “The storm is currently on a path that will take it west of Shanghai, and then northeastward back out to sea.”

As in Taiwan, crop losses in China will be significant. More than 143,000 hectares of farmland were damaged and the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters has estimated losses at 200 million yuan ($29 million). AIR is currently analyzing the latest available meteorological information for this storm.

North to Japan

Meanwhile, to the north, Tropical Storm Etau is approaching the Japanese coast near Tokyo. While there is still considerable uncertainty with respect to the storm’s future path and intensity, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) currently expects that Etau will remain a tropical storm and recurve to the northeast, thus avoiding a direct hit on the Japanese mainland and thus keeping the risk of any significant insured wind losses low. AIR continues to monitor Etau closely.

As residents across the region shelter from the effects of tropical cyclones, a strong earthquake struck off Honshu — Japan’s largest island — on Sunday, August 9. The JMA reported a magnitude of 6.9 and a depth of 340 km (210 mi), while the US Geological Survey issued a magnitude of 7.1 and a depth of 303 km (188 mi). The quake shook buildings in Tokyo and halted some train services briefly. There were no immediate reports of damage and AIR does not expect any significant losses from this event.

Elsewhere in the Tropics

Hurricane Felicia was downgraded to Tropical Storm Felicia in the Central Pacific. Sustained winds are currently 50 mph and the storm is moving to the west at 10 mph. Felicia is expected to arrive at or near the island of Oahu on late Tuesday. Although no reintensification is forecast at this time, AIR continues to monitor this storm.

Source: AIR Worldwide

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