Typhoon Hagibis renders many homeless

Typhoon Hagibis swiftly slammed into Japan a few weeks ago, killing over 88 people and injuring hundreds more. As the water continues to rise and flood up to the roofs of houses, the death toll could rise as well.

“My reaction from seeing pictures of destruction is wonderment in how the economy affected by the typhoon will recover, given that entire neighborhoods are submerged,” said Greensboro Society of Student Activists Co-President Rabia Kang, who led initiatives for disaster relief and preparation in 2018 and 2019.

Being the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan since 1958 (NPR), over 100 rivers have flooded since the initial storm, causing people to be concerned about the path of destruction and the repercussions it may have on the stability of the country.

“I am shocked at the typhoon’s range of devastation in the Kanto region of Japan,” said Early College student Rohan Akki. “I heard that the cost of the storm won’t be cleared for a long while –– like weeks if not months.”

Over 35 inches of rain are causing catastrophic flooding in communities around Tokyo. In fact, overall global costs from natural disaster damage have greatly increased in recent years, bringing the total in Asian countries to $30 billion in damage from last year from typhoons in the Pacific.

“It’s a horrible disaster and from my understanding it will take years for the affected areas to recover and rebuild,” said Early College student Rachel Witherspoon.

Rescue services jumped into action, using inflatable boats to transport people from flooded residential streets and helicopters to pick up others who were stranded.

However, homeless people were turned away from typhoon shelters, causing a huge debate in Japan and outrage on social media.

“Is this a country that’s going to host the Olympics in Tokyo?” read one tweet. “People from abroad would see this and think this is a terrible country.”

“Japanese disaster prevention is usually good compared to Western disaster prevention and I hope we as a country take note,” Akki added. “But the denial of shelter to the homeless especially makes me angry. This shouldn’t even be a topic of debate –– it’s basic human decency.”

With typhoons becoming a more frequent occurrence, many have said that damage control practices need to be improved.

“Climate change has definitely caused a drastic increase in storm severity and frequency,” said Akki. “I feel like this typhoon is a direct result of this.”

In addition to the drastic costs after the fact, many students believe putting dollars towards preparation for storms is just as important.

“While disaster relief is certainly important and countries should have plans in place, early preparation is even more important in preventing mass disaster and death,” said Witherspoon. “Too often, the areas that are most severely impacted by disasters such as hurricanes, typhoons, drought, etc., are the least prepared and take the longest to recover.”

“As climate change affects weather patterns, it is crucial that everyone is aware and protected, from any socioeconomic background,” Kang added. “It’s very important to educate young adults on resources to seek help, and to open venues for assistance in emergencies like this.”


Editor’s note: This story originally was published in Volume 106, Issue 4 of The Guilfordian on Nov. 1 2019.