The Philippines is famous for idyllic beaches, friendly locals, and breathtaking natural beauty. However, due to its location, it’s also a country heavily affected by natural disasters. The most common natural disasters in the Philippines are:
- Typhoons and violent storms
- Volcanic eruptions
- Floodings and landslides
Planning ahead is paramount: avoiding typhoon season and learning about safety advice for the Philippines is just as important as applying for your Philippine visa and booking your flights prior to departure. In case you find yourself in an extreme weather event, there are plenty of measures you can take to stay safe.
The Most Common Natural Disasters in the Philippines
The Philippines is located in an area at high risk of natural disasters called the Ring of Fire or Typhoon Belt. This is a Pacific Ocean region that experiences a great number of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
The most dangerous natural events to be aware of while traveling to the Philippines are:
- Typhoons. Every year, 19 typhoons enter the Philippine region and about 7 or 8 make landfall. In the past, some have been extraordinarily powerful and caused the death of thousands of people and the collapse of infrastructures in the affected areas. The Haiyan typhoon in 2013, for example, made over 7,300 victims and destroyed 1.1 million houses.
- Volcanic eruptions. There are currently 23 active volcanoes in the Philippines. Although they provide an extraordinary spectacle and tourists consider them a unique opportunity for photography, hiking, and other outdoor activities, active volcanoes are extremely dangerous. They can erupt without warning and produce sudden steam and ash explosions.
- Earthquakes. The Philippines is considered an earthquake zone, where more than 30 earthquakes can take place in just one year. The strongest earthquakes in the Philippines was registered in 1976 with a 7.9 magnitude.
- Secondary effects. The high frequency of earthquakes and typhoons also results in a number of secondary — but just as dangerous — events like floodings and landslides.
Philippines Safety Advice: The Philippine Typhoon Season
Since typhoons are a real risk for the safety of locals and tourists, avoiding the typhoon season should be a priority when planning your time in the Philippines, just like getting a Philippine visa and arranging your accommodation.
Typhoon season falls between June and November. During this time, rains and thunderstorms can occur randomly and are very difficult to predict.
Even when a typhoon is not expected to hit the area you’re visiting directly, you may still be affected by monsoonal rains, thunderstorms, and landslides resulting in the roads being cut and low-lying cities like Manila being at risk of flooding. Local buses can operate between landslides, but most tourists will have difficulties driving a private car in the Philippines during typhoon season.
Please note that typhoons and storms can occasionally hit outside typhoon season.
What to do in Extreme Weather Conditions in the Philippines
Being aware of typhoons is paramount while in the Philippines. Above all, this means keeping up to date with the weather forecast. Tourists should be informed if a typhoon is expected. In that case, they need to find out where it’s expected to hit and with what severity. There are several online channels that offer live updates, including the Philippines State Weather Agency website and relevant hashtags on Twitter. TV and radio broadcasts will also issue several typhoon warnings between 48-24 hours prior to the natural event.
If you’re traveling to the Philippines, there are ways to stay safe during a typhoon or earthquake:
- Keep your radio or other communication devices on and listen to instructions carefully
- Do not use your phone to make calls unless it’s an emergency. The channels are likely to be very busy and the local authorities and emergency services need free lines to provide assistance.
- Stay indoor as flying objects are a great danger during heavy storms and typhoons. Avoid buildings with glass panes.
- Stay away from coasts and riverbanks.
- Evacuate to higher grounds in case you are in a low-lying area. Your hotel should have an evacuation plan in place. If not, follow the locals.
- Familiarize yourself with the building or refuge you’re in — know where the nearest exits, first-aid kits, flashlights, and water are. Stay away from breakable, chemical, and flammable items.
- Do not use the elevator and choose the stairs instead.