The Philippines Is the Most Storm-Exposed Country on Earth

Here's a rundown of just how bad the problem is

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Charism Sayat / AFP / Getty Images

A resident walks past high waves pounding the seawall amid strong winds as Typhoon Haiyan hit the city of Legazpi, Albay province, Philippines, on Nov. 8, 2013

How many storms on average strike the Philippines every year?

On average, eight or nine tropical storms make landfall in the Philippines each year, with another 10 entering Philippine waters. In 2013, only six storms have affected the country. The worst year was 1993, when 19 cyclones pummeled the coastline.

What is the average death toll?

Eight of the top 10 deadliest cyclones to hit the Philippines had a death toll reaching between 1,000 and 2,000 people. The deadliest storm on record was Thelma, which killed around 5,100 in 1991. Authorities fear as many as 10,000 people have died in Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda), which would make it the Philippines’ deadliest storm ever.

What was the worst until now?

Typhoon Reming, also known as Durian, which hit the Philippines in November 2006, was the strongest tropical cyclone to devastate the country before Haiyan, according to the World Meteorological Organization. It packed sustained winds of 193 km/h and gusts of 320 km/h, compared with sustained winds of 313 km/h and gusts of up to 380 km/h for Typhoon Haiyan.

What’s the financial cost?

The most expensive storm to have made landfall in the Philippines, December 2012’s Typhoon Bopha, killed more than 1,900 people and cost the country some $1 billion. Coming in second is Typhoon Parma, which hit in October 2009 and had a cleanup bill of more than $600 million.

Why is the damage so bad?

Situated in a vast expanse of warm ocean water on the western rim of the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is the most exposed country in the world to tropical storms. With more than 7,000 islands, the coastline is vulnerable to storm surges. It’s also one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of just $4,500 in 2012. A large number of the country’s 96 million people live in areas with poor infrastructure and flimsy housing. Northern Luzon and eastern Visayas are the areas most frequently hit by tropical storms.