Powerful Typhoon Kompasu Sweeps Across Philippines, South China Sea as Vietnam Evacuates 250,000
© AP Photo / Vincent YuA woman poses for a selfie at the waterfront of Victoria Habour in strong winds while a typhoon approaches Hong Kong Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. The Hong Kong Observatory said it will consider issuing the number 8 signal between 4pm and 6pm on Tuesday as Severe Tropical Storm Kompasu edges closer to the city.
As Storm Kompasu churns its way into the South China Sea, officials across Vietnam and southern China are preparing for the region’s second storm in as many weeks. Kompasu left widespread destruction in the Philippines, where 11 are dead and 7 missing due to mudslides.
According to forecasting by the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Kompasu will first make landfall on China’s Hainan Island around noon on Wednesday and cross the island before striking Vietnam’s Thanh Hóa and Nghệ An Provinces late on Thursday.
At present, it has peak winds of 120 kilometers per hour, making it equivalent in strength to a weak Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale used for Atlantic storms. However, it is expected to strengthen as it passes over the South China Sea’s warm waters, which are unusually conducive to storm formation this year, despite the La Niña period of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation cycle still being underway.
Nguyen Van Huong, the head of Vietnam’s National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, told VN Express there was an “intertropical convergence zone,” or doldrums, that had settled across the region.
© REUTERS / PDRRMO MOUNTAIN PROVINCEPDRRMO (Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office) flood monitoring chart is pictured at Chico River river in Bontoc, in Mountain Province, Philippines, October 12, 2021. PDRRMO MOUNTAIN PROVINCE
PDRRMO (Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office) flood monitoring chart is pictured at Chico River river in Bontoc, in Mountain Province, Philippines, October 12, 2021. PDRRMO MOUNTAIN PROVINCE
"Such a zone is the cradle of storm formation. In addition, October is normally the time when most storms are formed in the East Sea," Huong explained.
Kompasu is expected to strengthen again before striking Hainan, but will impact Vietnam as a weaker storm, with winds of roughly 75 kilometers per hour.
Nonetheless, the socialist state is preparing for widespread damage, banning sea travel across a wide swath of the country and ordering the evacuation of 250,000 people. Authorities have also directed 54,000 ships with 230,000 crew members to seek shelter, according to Pham Duc Luan, deputy head of Vietnam’s National Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control.
In Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangdong, where the storm’s outer bands are expected to bring gale force winds and widespread havoc, officials anticipated the damage after failing to react quickly enough to Storm Lionrock, a typhoon that tracked northward through the South China Sea before hooking leftward at Hainan and impacting northern Vietnam last week. Scaffolding at a construction in Hong Kong’s Happy Valley district collapsed in the storm, killing a 55-year-old construction worker.
“The development and paths of Lionrock and Kompasu are completely different, making the uncertainty in forecasting different,” Lee Tsz-Cheung, the senior scientific officer at the Hong Kong Observatory, told the South China Morning Post (SCMP), a Hong Kong daily paper. “But of course, after learning from the Lionrock experience, we have tried our best to make our announcements clearer. We have also increased our manpower.”
This time, the city sounded its No. 8 typhoon warning, its third-highest, well in advance, which created a run on grocery stores for food and other goods.
Shipping operations in the Pearl River Delta also ground to a halt as Kompasu approached, with Shenzhen’s Yantian port temporarily closing its loading operations. Yantian is one of the world’s busiest ports, serving about 100 container ships a week, according to Bloomberg.
A similar problem ensued in July as Typhoon Ing-Fa slammed into China’s Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, shutting down the major ports of Shanghai, Zhoushan, and Ningbo. However, the latter two ports then closed again shortly thereafter due an outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19, only amplifying the backup problem. Then in mid-September, the ultra-powerful Typhoon Chanthu swept north across the East China Sea, shutting things down once again.