BYU-Hawaii students from the islands of Hong Kong and the Philippines braced for the news about their homelands as Typhoon Ompong raged cross the Pacific. The Philippines took most of the brunt of the storm when the typhoon hit on Sept. 15 as it headed straight to Hong Kong.
According to Rappler.com the Philippines experienced 88 deaths. Most occurred due to landslides that happened because of heavy rainfall. The Philippines National Police (PNP) are still searching for 47 missing people.
Resident of the Philippines Yana Rel Cherne, a senior majoring in accounting said, “Baguio City was one of the areas in the northern part of the Philippines where the typhoon hit hard. It’s very alarming because it hasn’t happened in so many years. It was so unexpected to lose a lot of lives because of landslides.”
According to Cherne, flooding had not occurred in her city for many years. She said, “There were floods which is very unusual to happen in my hometown because of its high altitude. I know someone who had to walk for a few hours to get to my house due to the flood that continued to rise in their area. There was no transportation available so they had to travel by foot.”
Northeast of Baguio lays Tuguegarao, and the city suffered damages. Mariejoy Arao, a sophomore from Tuguegarao studying education said her family didn’t feel the need to evacuate. However she said, “There was no electricity for [almost] a month.”
From past storms, like Typhoon Lawin in 2016, there was massive flooding and damage to infrastructure. In speaking about the recent typhoon Ompong and the dangers of the Magat Dam overflowing, Arao said “They need to release water from Magat, the biggest dam in the Philippines. Cagayan river overflowed and it caused floods in Tuguegarao City.”
After the Philippines, Ompong headed directly toward Hong Kong. Delta Ho, BYUH alumna and resident of Hong Kong did not feel any concern for the storm. However, her mother lives closer to the sea and Ho said, “Before the storm arrived my mom told me every time she went to the supermarket, people were buying so much food and water even though the price was much higher than ever.”
Long Yin Lee, a sophomore from Hong Kong majoring in TESOL commented on the government’s response and actions during the storm. “The government evacuated all the people who [were] working before the storm came. The electricity supplier announced the power may shut down through media so Hong Kongese had time to get prepared.”
Noticing how people prepared for the storm, Lee said “Many people put on tape on the windows. Also they bought food for storage and stored many jars of water in their home. Some stores put on sand bags at the entrance.”
Food did not seem to be a concern. Ho said, “My mom only bought one day of food to prepare for the storm because we are not worried as compared to the others neighbors. We had lots of snacks at home anyway.”
Destruction occurred due to the high winds. Ho said, “I heard from friends and the news they felt the buildings sway a little during the typhoons. Many windows were damaged and many trees in my area were destroyed. Some people got hurt after the typhoons because of the fallen branches from the damaged trees.”
Some of the Lee’s family’s property suffered damage along with other Hong Kongese citizen’s properties. She said, “My brother’s greenhouse was seriously damaged. There were a lot of trees that fell down causing the buses and taxis unable to pass through. People had to walk to the train station and there was a long queue in the train station... Many offices were damaged as well so people couldn’t work.”