Last Thursday, a Facebook page named Philippine Storm Update (insert URL here) published a bulletin saying that a low pressure area (LPA) has formed in the southwest part of Pacific Ocean and that it has the potential to be as strong as super typhoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan).
According to the post, the supposed super storm will arrive in the Philippines by January 16 or 17. It even published a list of provinces that will likely be on the typhoon’s path. For a country still reeling from the effects of the worst typhoon in its history, it’s perhaps the worst news to receive at the start of the year.
The post has received mixed reactions, with some users expressing alarm while others urged caution. The page has almost 40,000 followers while the actual post has been shared nearly 20,000 times (it has since been deleted as of January 4).
With the alarming information quickly going viral on the social media, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) moved on Friday morning to debunk the rumor, writing on their Facebook page:
“We have detected an LPA based from our different satellite models but it’s quite far from PAR (more than 3000-4000 km East from Philippine landmass) and as of now, there is no enough proof to conclude that this will turn into a super typhoon like Typhoon Yolanda. We advised that don’t easily believe on rumors and statement without concrete basis. Keep calm and don’t panic.”
For sure, the first typhoon of the year will definitely be named Agaton (take a look at the list of typhoon names for 2014 here). It is also possible that a typhoon will enter the Philippine area of responsibility this month (for reference, it happened last year).
Lastly, the coming typhoon Agaton may indeed turn out to be as strong as Yolanda. However, fear-mongering on the basis hypothetical scenarios is certainly not helping the public in anyway.
PS: In a future post, I intend to discuss some tips on how readers can assess information they gather through blogs and social networking sites.