The death toll in and near the Philippines from Typhoon Fengshen is still rising. Flooding from heavy rains has taken a heavy toll. And many of the more than 700 onboard a ferry that capsized off an island in the central Philippines are feared dead. While we wait for assessments to be completed on the preparation, response and recovery to this typhoon, this large offshore loss of life is a reminder to the marine community that it is far from immune to the impacts from tropical cyclones.
The Deadliest Atlantic Tropical Cyclones, 1492-1994 written by Edward N. Rappaport and Jose Fernandez-Partagas (http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastdeadly.shtml) provides information about Atlantic tropical cyclones responsible for at least 25 deaths. The publication speculates that the total number of deaths in Atlantic tropical cyclones from 1492-1994 is between one-third and one-half million. Although the total number of ship-related casualties associated with Atlantic tropical cyclones will never be known, it is interesting to note that over 90% of the offshore losses listed in the report occurred more than 200 years ago, as did all 12 offshore losses of more than 1,000 people.
Improvements to tropical cyclone forecasting and communications have, in general, resulted in fewer offshore deaths. We should let the Typhoon Fengshen disaster serve as a reminder that large loss of life within the marine community from a single tropical cyclone can still occur.