Rescuers pull a rubber boat as they assist residents who were trapped in their homes after floodwaters caused by Typhoon Rai inundated their village in Negros Occidental, central Philippines in this file photo. Image Credit: AP

Manila: Fearsome typhoons, volcanic eruptions and strong earthquakes. These are the three of the natural phenomena that regularly visit residents of the Philippines.

The island-nation sits at a boundary of the earth’s major tectonic plates while a huge part of its territory straddles the world’s notorious “typhoon belt”.

Result: The archipelago, beautiful in its own right and spread across 7,641 islands in the north-western Pacific, is hit by typhoons (and floods), landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions — and droughts — on a regular basis.

What makes the Philippines prone to typhoons?

Every year, up to 20 storms are hurled from vast Pacific to the Asian country. Some of that hit land directly, leaving a trail of devastation: at least 60% of the country's total land area — nearly 300,000 km2 (116,000 square miles), a place larger than either Arizona or Nevada — is vulnerable to these monstrous tropical cyclones.

Philippine typhoon
INTENSE STORMS: The Philippines straddles the “typhoon belt”, an area in north-western Pacific Ocean where more than 30% of the world's tropical cyclones form. This area is not only the most active in the world, but also has the most intense storms globally.

The location of the archipelago along the path of the tropical storms coming in from the planet's biggest ocean, plus its located in the so-called “Ring of Fire” account for the higher frequency of these natural disaster triggers.

Why is it called the “typhoon belt”?

The term typhoon belt refers to a massive region in the west Pacific Ocean, which at 165 million km2, can fit all continents on the planet.

Philippine typhoon
TYPHOON PRONE: About 20 typhoons enter the Philippines area each year, of which six to nine make "landfall”. Of the islands that make up the Philippines, northern Luzon and eastern Visayas are most commonly affected. Image Credit: Tropical Cyclone Research Review

This “belt”, found in the western Pacific, is where nearly one-third of the world's tropical cyclones form.

Typhoons usually move westward across the country, heading either north — or further west — as they go. Long-term climate data show that this area is not only the most active in the world, but also packs the most intense storms on the planet.

Philippine typhoon
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A major part of the Philippines is straddles this “belt”. Due to its geographic location, an average of 20 typhoons can hit the country a year.

What do the numbers show for this typhoon belt?

In a 2014 review of the landfall characteristics of tropical cyclones (TCs) across the planet, Japanese researchers led by Hironori Fudeyasu stated that the number of TC formations averaged from 1990 to 2011 is 77.8.


The national emergency telephone hotline in Philippines.

Using a simple metric to determine the relative exposure of countries to TC impacts, researchers called the belt that faces the North Western Pacific as “TC-Landfall countries”.

This is attributed to the high rate of TC formation over the basin, according to the study published in the journal Tropical Cyclone Research Review.

Emergency numbers


Public complaint telephone hotline in the Philippines. Both 911 and 8888 hotlines numbers are managed by the Emergency 911 National Office.

What are the most at-risk places in the country to disasters?

According to the Asian Centre for Flood Control (ACFC), 8 of the world’s 10 most disaster-prone cities are in the Philippines.

The Philippine cities included in the list, with their corresponding rankings, are:

> Tuguegarao in Cagayan (2nd)
> Lucena in Quezon Province (3rd)
> Metro Manila (4th)
> City of San Fernando in Pampanga (5th)
> Cabanatuan in Nueva Ecija (6th)
> Batangas (7th)
> San Carlos – (no province specified in the report) (9th)
> Naga in Camarines Sur (10th)

The most flood-prone provinces are:

Philippine typhoon
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> Pampanga
> Nueva Ecija
> Pangasinan
> Tarlac
> Maguindanao
> Bulacan
> Metro Manila
> North Cotabato
> Oriental Mindoro
> and Ilocos Norte.

LANDFALL: When the “eye” (centre) of a storm moves over land, that’s when a tropical cyclone (TC) is classified as making “landfall”. Land-falling TCs can produce strong winds, storm surges and severe flooding that may result in loss of life and widespread damages.

What was the strongest typhoon in the Philippines?

"Haiyan", called Yolanda in the Philippines, was the deadliest cyclone on record in the country, leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing. 

Bodies piled in streets
Bodies piled in streets as makeshift mortuaries are overrun following the devastation left by supertyphoon Haiyan in November 2013 in Leyte. Most of the victims were buried in mass graves. Image Credit: Getty Images / AFP

Why is Philippines frequented by earthquakes?

Both volcanoes and earthquakes occur due to movement of the Earth's tectonic plates. Hundreds of earthquakes are recorded in the country each day. Some can be occasionally strong.

Volcano Discovery, which keeps tracks of earthquakes, recorded an average of 28 earthquakes per day from January 7 to February 7, 2021. It is considered one of the world's most disaster-prone countries, according to the UN Population Fund.

The Philippine islands form part of the so called “ring of fire”, where many of Earth's volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur. The country has more than 300 volcanoes, of which 24 are active, according to Philvolcs.

The Ring of Fire Philippines data
The Ring of Fire is a roughly 40,233-km chain of volcanoes and seismically active sites around the Pacific Ocean. 1,500 - Number of active volcanoes around the world. The Pacific “The Ring of Fire” is home to 75% of the world's volcanoes, with some 90% of world’s earthquakes found in this so-called rim. Image Credit: Shutterstock / Gulf News

Most quakes occur along cracks in the planet's surface, of which up to 90% happen within in this "ring". This massive area is known for its many fractures (small and localised or thousands of miles long) where the Earth's tectonic plates meet.

The Philippine archipelago straddles a number of active earthquake fractures, or fault lines, characterised by the Earth's crust constantly moving relative to each other.


The average number of earthquakes per day recorded in the Philippines from January 7 to February 7, 2021, most of which are below magnitude 2, which cannot normally be felt, according to Volcano Discovery.

These constant movements may occur rapidly, through earthquakes — or slowly, in the form of what geologists describe as "creep". Over time, most such faults produce repeated displacements.

They're constant reminders that the Earth is vast, complex, unpredictable and especially so in this part of the word.

What is NDRRMC alert?
When a Philippine resident or visitor receives an alert from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) — usually a text message sent to phone numbers in a certain geographic area — it means intense rains have fallen and will continue for the next three hours.

> It means flooding threatens low-lying areas and near river channels.
> Be prepared.
> Residents in affected areas must be ready for a possible evacuation due to threats of a flood.