Hurricane Fifi–Orlene: One of the Most Destructive Hurricanes in History
Cyclone, typhoon, hurricane — depending on where they occur, these devastating tropical storms may have different names. Unfortunately, these natural phenomena bring with them terrible gusts of wind, flash floods, and terrible effects on people and infrastructure. Not only do humans do tremendous harm to the planet, but nature is cruelly ruthless to humans.
World Natural Disasters collected for you all the most interesting facts about one of the most horrific hurricanes that happened in 1974 – Hurricane Fifi.
Hurricane Fifi Overview
The hurricane named Fifi-Orlene, which happened in 1974, is considered a truly terrible natural disaster since it took the lives of almost 10 thousand people in more than nine different countries within a few days. The natural disaster formed in the Atlantic Ocean and struck the island countries of Jamaica and Cuba and also affected countries in South and North America: Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, Belize, and the state of Arizona in the USA. Honduras is considered the most affected country, as the hurricane claimed 80% of all deaths there. Hurricane Fifi–Orlene is considered to be the third hurricane in history to take so many lives. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and the Great Hurricane of 1780 surpassed Fifi in terms of destruction and loss of life. Fifi is a billion-dollar girl, as she was the first hurricane to cost the affected countries several billion U.S. dollars.
The Path of This Natural Disaster
On September 14, 1974, a massive tropical wave occurred in the Atlantic Ocean, generating strong winds and storms in the northwestern ocean near the shores of the Caribbean Islands. Within days, the depression had already turned into a tropical storm, which was named after the Greek god Phifi (or Fifi). It was in the form of a tropical storm that Jamaica met this natural phenomenon. But the storm quickly gained momentum and already with all its might, namely that of a hurricane of the 2nd category, it hit Honduras.
The Huracan Fifi en Honduras (that is how locals called it) reached its peak and destroyed many of the country’s cities, taking the lives of 8,000 people. Belize was the next target of the hurricane. Luckily for the residents of this small country, the hurricane quickly weakened to a storm and had already become a depression in the open ocean. But its story doesn’t end there, as it continued on its way to join another depression in the Pacific Ocean and once again reached tropical storm status. This depletion decided to be called cyclone Orlene.
On September 22, the cyclone again developed into a 2nd-category hurricane and headed toward Mexico. For 2 days hurricane Orlene tormented the territories of Mexico, Nicaragua, the United States, and other countries. On September 25, the hurricane dissipated over the mountains of Mexico.
The Aftermath of the Hurricane
Along the way, Hurricane Fifi-Orlene caused devastating damage to nine countries, with losses totaling $1.5 billion. But that’s not the worst of the losses, as the storm took tens of thousands of lives. Officially, the hurricane killed 8300 people, but evidence suggests that there were more than 10,000 victims! In addition to the hurricane itself, nature brought heavy rains, urban flooding, and landslides. One small town in Honduras alone received a one-hundred-quarter rainfall, flooding streets and killing 3,000 to 4,000 people.
The muddy water spread many viral diseases and as a consequence, several hundred more died of disease. Guatemala also suffered from continuous heavy rains, but there were only 200 people killed. Most of the countries affected were poor, so rescuers from around the world rushed to the affected countries to help. The name given to this hurricane was taken from the rotation of names for hurricanes, as the famous hurricane that caused numerous deaths remains the only one in history.
Recovering Countries after a Hurricane
After the hurricane ended, the countries were paralyzed. The main highways connecting the cities were flooded, the only way out was to fly in helicopters. Rescue workers reported hundreds of dead bodies in rivers in the disaster area. The first week proved to be the most unhelpful for rescuers, as they were unable to reach flooded areas. Only 3 years after the hurricane, in 1977, did the government of Honduras grant money for a project to rebuild destroyed villages and towns. There were a total of 6 project zones, which included almost 500 homes to be rebuilt. Imagine that more than 500 families lost their homes and lived for three years in shelters or with relatives.
Many people were left homeless. Many countries around the world, including the United States, poured millions into rebuilding homes in Honduras. Ten days after the hurricane, neighboring countries bordering Honduras sent their humanitarian aid. Many homeless people migrated to the U.S., where they were provided with shelter. Fifi in Mexico also brought destruction, but not as much as in Honduras. Mexico rebuilt its infrastructure one year after the terrible disaster with its own resources and the help of other countries.
You never know what hurricane season may bring and what to expect from nature. To keep yourself safe, it’s best to know what you can and cannot do during hurricanes and storms. We’ve already written an article on our blog with tips on behavior during natural disasters. Make sure you read it.