Typhoon Haiyan - the strongest typhoon to reach land in recorded history - has been causing ridiculous levels of destruction through Micronesia, the Philippines, Southern China and Vietnam. The destruction is of an untold scale. Mere days into the typhoon making landfall, and as of this article's creation, more than 10,000 people are reported dead with damage costs closing in on one billion US dollars.
The damage has been caused by the ferocious rainstorms, lightning strikes and winds in excess of a phenomenal 315km/h (195mph), enough to fling cars, uproot trees and level buildings within moments.
The phenomenon is unprecedented, though not entirely unexpected, as we've explained in a previous article.
In short, rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have reached an imbalance point which is leading to the planet trying to regulate itself. It's a force of nature, and we can only expect things to get worse as CO2 levels keep getting higher. It's not global warming, it's global resetting.
But to read more about that, check out the other article. This article is about the after-effects of a disaster like this.
Many preppers stockpile food, equipment, knowledge and skill in order to ride out something like this happening to them, however events like this, horrible though they are, give us a rare window into a post-catastrophe world that we would do well to learn from.
As we have explained in past articles, speaking about Hurricane Wilma as it ripped through the Atlantic Basin in October of 2005, things turn from bad to worse in a situation like this, and things can quickly change as the threat changes from the disaster itself, to the sanitation, to the food and then to each other.
This happened after Wilma, it happened after Katrina, it happened after hundreds more throughout history and now history is repeating itself with Haiyan. The biggest threats simply don't always come from the disaster itself.
After Haiyan swept over the Philippines, the people there banded together to help rescue each other, feed each other, shelter each other, and all was working well. Foreign aid was on the way and the worst had passed. The response from the world was massive, with many countries offering up tens of millions of dollars in aid for those left stranded, injured or without food.
Unfortunately, the infrastructure to dispense such aid simply couldn't cope with the demand for it, and things have since turned quite nasty.
Keep in mind that all of the following has happened in the span of days. Not weeks, not months. Days.
Firstly, there was the destruction to deal with. That much debris was thrown into the streets that there practically WERE no streets left by the end. People were simply having to walk on, around and amongst the rubble of what once was there home.
Risks of injury are high at this point, as moving around can be treacherous at best. Structures can not be assumed to be sturdy or load-bearing anymore, and roofs may offer a crushing death rather than shelter.
Many of the survivors were quick to build new, temporary shelters amongst the wrecks of their homes, partially so that they would have the shelter they needed, but also because many of them don't know what else to do. The shock of having this happen would immobilize many for a long while.
Crude structures such as tents would go up quickly:
Many, however, didn't build. They left, in a mass exodus, to parts of their home that were still intact. This mass movement of people blocked up major roads and limited the ability of aid workers to reach the places they needed to be, but desperate people do desperate things.
Aid centers were quickly overwhelmed. Trucks bringing supplies were swamped. The people were, understandably, desperate. They had no homes, no food, no clean water, and yet still had children and themselves to feed. Many realised that help was limited and started pleading with outsiders for help.
And despite the outside world's best efforts, that help has been limited in its arrival due to the sheer levels of devastation of the typhoon. It was at this point that things started becoming more desperate and more internalized, as the people started seeing that outside help was limited.
The people, forced to fend for themselves, started realising that the danger wasn't over. The death toll was catastrophic, and with the sheer levels of destruction, death was all around them. Fresh corpses of animals and fellow humans were dotted throughout the soaking wreckage, slowly becoming bloated from the flood waters and rotting fast.
Clearing bodies takes infrastructure, manpower, resources. None of which were available to the stranded populace, and as more wreckage was cleared and filtered through, more and more corpses were found, in various states of decay. Because of this, insects became a major problem, leading to fast-spreading sickness and infection.
Authorities of course moved to clear dead bodies as fast as they could, but there is only so much they could do with the resources they had considering the sheer scale of the devastation. This led to rushed jobs, with the general public being exposed to sometimes very graphic scenes, which further expanded the growing panic.
It is at this point that people started to move again, but there was no-where to go to, and disease was spreading quickly, causing much illness. People tried to get away from it but the scale of the disaster was too large, and there was no-where to go to.
When people need to be herded, countries get the military involved, and this was no exception. They were brought in to help assist with directing civilians, dispensing rations and cleanup. But though they were there to help, the presence of the military can make tensions run high.
There are few forces as destructive as desperate, panicked people. At this point, just a handful of days in, what meager food people had was gone, disease was rampant, their homes were gone and the military was between them and their food. At this point things started to get uglier.
It was at this point that major violence started breaking out. Looters started breaking into stores to take what they could. Family-owned businesses had to either abandon their businesses and flee, or protect them as best they could.
This is a tentative situation, however, as the act of a single person, such as discharging a weapon or taking a life, can spark a much larger scale event as it unifies people into an "us and them" mentality, or strengthens it further if one already exists.
Nevertheless, looting has become rife through the devastated areas, as desperate people have a growing need for food, medication and other supplies, and as of writing this article, at least seven people have already been confirmed killed in the ensuing violence.
More bodies means more panic and more infection. More wounded means more relief workers being distracted from helping elsewhere. The problem compounds upon itself and grows exponentially as time passes. The death toll from Haiyan is already catastrophic, and it will continue to rise as time passes.
So what can be learned from this horrendous experience? It is most important to remember that disasters such as this, and the populations response to them, follow a set pattern, regardless of culture, religion or geographic location. What is happening in the Philippines right now is no different to what happened in New Orleans after Katrina, or Florida after Wilma, or the Tsunami in China or any other major natural disaster.
It is true that Typhoon Haiyan is unprecedented in its scale, but that does not mean it can't and won't happen again. It does not mean that smaller-scale disasters can't wreak as much havok.
When disaster strikes, large-scale devastation WILL occur...
Facilities and conveniences WILL be destroyed...
People WILL become disenfranchised...
And they WILL become desperate and violent if resources are scarce...
If it is serious enough, the military WILL be mobilized...
And given enough time without facilities, bodies WILL pile up and disease WILL spread...
So use what has happened. Research it. Read about it. Plan for it. You're seeing a real, live situation unfolding which is what you yourself have planned for. Study it, and you will be that much more prepared.
Ask yourself hard questions. What in my load-out would be useful if I lived in the Philippines? What would I never touch? How would I do for food? How would I protect it? Where would I go? How would I control infection and disease? How would I defend myself?
If you don't ask yourself these questions, and you don't prepare properly, you'll end up as a statistic. It may be untested gear, it may be the wrong gear, it may be a lack of knowledge, or perhaps a lack of practiced skill. Maybe you don't have enough bug-out routes. These are things you must clarify, memorize and test regularly. The Philippines had 4 days notice to prepare for Haiyan's destruction. This kind of thing can happen at any time, anywhere.
Be prepared, not scared.