Series of Blunders Worsened Haiyan's Hit
Officials, residents didn't know how bad typhoon would be
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2013 9:03 AM CST
With a tattered Philippine flag mounted on the debris, typhoon survivors look for items to save at Tacloban city, Leyte province in central Philippines Saturday Nov. 23, 2013.   (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

(Newser) – As the Philippines prepared for Typhoon Haiyan, the president told officials his goal: a "zero-casualty" event. Instead, despite the days of warning officials had, the death toll currently stands at 5,235, most in and around Tacloban. What happened? The Wall Street Journal takes an extensive look at the run-up to the storm, finding that officials in Tacloban and Manila failed to predict just how bad it would be—and, though they tried to warn citizens, failed to truly communicate the danger. The Journal runs down their missteps:

  • One small detail that turned out to be a major problem: the repeated use of the term "storm surge." The interior secretary explains, "Nobody had heard it before, nobody knew what it was. I know it's the specific term the meteorologists use, but perhaps we should have said 'tsunami.'" Indeed, the typhoon was forecast to have a similar impact as that of a huge tsunami, and another official confirms that using that term would have helped more people to understand what was coming.

  • Only 15,300 of Tacloban's 220,000 residents evacuated, with many saying they wanted to protect their property and others simply remaining skeptical—particularly after a tsunami alert last year that ended up being a false alarm. And officials, wary that they might end up with violence on their hands, did not force residents to seek better shelter.
  • They also didn't stock enough supplies: Tacloban city employees stocked only enough water to sustain 2% of the population for one day.
  • The interior secretary didn't bring a satellite phone with him to his temporary residence; he wasn't able to reach Manila for a full day.
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