In September, Typhoon Mangkhut wrought a path of destruction across the western North Pacific, causing damage from Guam, to the Philippines, Hong Kong, and southern China. For Hong Kong, Mangkhut was the second strong typhoon to impact the region in consecutive years, following Typhoon Hato in 2017. Damage was extensive – according to local media, at least 500 homes and high-rise buildings in Hong Kong, including apartment complexes and office blocks, were severely damaged.
In the weeks following Mangkhut, RMS worked with the Insurance Authority (IA) – the independent insurance regulator for Hong Kong, to help provide (re)insurers in the region with some context and scientific analysis around this event. According to data from the insurers gathered by the IA, Typhoon Mangkhut caused total insured losses of HKD 3.5 billion (US$448 million) in Hong Kong. This figure, collected as at October 12, three weeks after Mangkhut’s landfall, represents losses reported by insurance and reinsurance companies in Hong Kong. With the loss information provided by the IA and using the RMS China and Hong Kong Typhoon Model, RMS estimated Mangkhut to have a return period of 30 to 40 years in Hong Kong.1
Many of us across the risk management industry actively help communities in need after natural disasters, through donations, working with organizations to promote resilience, or through on-the-ground assistance. Our intimate understanding of the power of these catastrophes makes us acutely aware of the need to act.
This is true for everyone here at RMS, where our values embrace the need to understand risk, build resiliency, and make an impact to help improve the lives of communities who live with the threat of natural disasters. One of the ways we live our values is through our annual RMS Impact Trek, where both RMS employees and our clients work with the social enterprise Build Change in some of the world’s most catastrophe-prone areas.
If you are an RMS client, I would like to extend an invitation to our annual RMS Impact Trek. This is the fourth year that we are sponsoring representatives from our clients to join RMS employees and Build Change so that their skills can be used to build stronger communities.
This is my experience of Typhoon Mangkhut. I live in Tseung Kwan O in the New Territories, Hong Kong, some five miles (eight kilometers) east of downtown Hong Kong, and home to around 370,000 residents. Hong Kong, which ranks just above Luxembourg in terms of geographical area, is the fourth-most densely populated region in the world, with a population around 7.5 million. Because of so many people living in a small area, it is full of towers — Hong Kong as a city has the most skyscrapers in the world, with 317 towers taller than 150 meters (490 feet).
My home is also in a high-rise development, part of The Wings complex in Tseung Kwan O, which includes eight towers built around six years ago, with the towers rising to 41 stories. The towers overlook Junk Bay to the south, and is right next to the eastern end of the famous Victoria Harbor between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
My experience of Typhoon Mangkhut is similar to many residents — as of course, many of us do live in high-rise towers. The center of Mangkhut passed close by Hong Kong at a weekend, on Sunday, September 16, and on the day of the typhoon, we were acting on the official advice and all staying at home.
From the small city of Baggao, Cagayan Province in the Philippines, to Hong Kong and further into China — locations across these two countries look to recover after Typhoon Mangkhut (25W). After landfall in Guam on Monday, September 10, Mangkhut — known locally as Ompong in the Philippines, made landfall again at 2 a.m. Saturday local time (18:00 UTC, Friday, September 14) near Baggao, as the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS).
Maximum sustained wind speeds at landfall were 133 miles per hour (214 kilometers per hour) according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported similar results to the JMA with maximum sustained wind speeds of 134 miles per hour (215 kilometers per hour), but the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported 166 miles per hour (268 kilometers per hour), equivalent to a Category 5 major hurricane on the SSHWS.
Super Typhoon Mangkhut (26W) — the twenty-fourth named storm in the western North Pacific this year, was tracking over open ocean around 321 miles (516 kilometers) east-northeast of Manila, Philippines at 0000 UTC Friday, September 14. Mangkhut, named as Ompong in the Philippines using the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) naming system, is the first storm of typhoon strength to impact the Philippines since Typhoon Nock-ten on December 25, 2016, after 2017 proved relatively quiet, typhoon-free year for the country.
With the Philippines currently in the monsoon season (south west monsoon), which brings rain to western parts of the country, Typhoon Mangkhut is enhancing this monsoon system (termed as a “Hanging Habagat” locally) to bring heavier rains to the western side of the Philippines including Palawan, the Visayas, and northern Mindanao. Mangkhut is the strongest storm of the year so far — currently a category 5 equivalent storm (on the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale — SSHWS) with 1-minute sustained winds of 166 miles per hour (267 kilometers per hour) as reported by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC).