Popular travel hubs affected by disasters and if you should go there in 2019

2018-12-10 10:28 - Gabi Zietsman
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The disasters of 2018 and what to expect in 2019. (Photo: iStock)

It's been a long year, and for those destinations hard-hit by natural disasters, the year got stretched even further.

Arguably, this has been the year of the volcano, with Hawaii and Guatemala experiencing unexpected eruptions.

Cyclones, earthquakes, floods and typhoons battered islands and cities this year, and the extreme weather has become "the face of climate change" according to one of the world's leading climate scientists, reports The Guardian. 

SEE: #TravelEssentials: 4 Ways travel insurance can really save you from disaster

Besides the devastating disasters, there's also been boiling heatwaves that hit northern Europe, all pointing towards climate change as the main culprit.

After such a year, the talks held at COP 24 in Poland are increasingly becoming more important for the future of the planet - but reports have been bleak. Research showed that global emissions were on the rise, and there's still government-level push-back against reducing coal usage, especially Poland itself and of course the US, reports Green Tech Media.

The European Union, however, upped their commitment to reusable energy, increasing its targets and providing more support for e-mobility, which aims to electrify public transport. So far 40 countries have signed to give their support, but the US failed to comply.

The biggest shock was the backtracking of major oil producers on a globally-approved report on the need to keep global warming below 1.5°C, according to The Guardian. It was agreed upon two months prior, but when it came to submitting it officially during COP 24, Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait rejected the report.

ALSO SEE: Go green in the winelands with these 8 eco-vineyards

Here's a look at the top disasters of the year, and the outlook for 2019:

Cape Town, South Africa

What happened: The Mother City was hit by a severe drought where the water to the city was close to being depleted and taps would have to be switched off, resulting in Level 6b restrictions limiting 50 litres of water per person per day.

The situation for 2019: While water restrictions have been reduced to Level 3, people are still only allowed 105 litres per day, and water saving measures are encouraged ahead of the dry summer from December. The City of Cape Town has launched a new campaign - #NowhereBetter - to show the world they're open for business.

WATCH: Cape Town's cheeky new campaign is a fist-pump to having effectively dealt with its recent water crisis

Sulawesi, Indonesia

What happened: A strong earthquake shook up the island in September, causing hundreds of deaths, injuries and toppling buildings. The earthquake also caused a 10-foot tsunami that devastated the city of Palu.

The situation for 2019: Palu was the worst affected and hundreds of thousands of Indonesians are still displaced across central Sulawesi. Construction recovery is still ongoing while many who lost their homes have fled the province.

Lombok, Indonesia

What happened: Another earthquake struck the popular tourist island next to Bali, taking out buildings and damaging the popular backpacking islands of Gili.

The situation for 2019: The string of disasters that have hit Indonesia recently has reduced the number of tourists flocking to the area. It would be a good idea to avoid Mount Agung in Bali and give the Gili Islands some time to recover, visiting them later in the year. Airports and tourism hubs remain open.

WATCH: Quakes cut power, topple buildings on popular Indonesian tourist island

Hawaii, US

What happened: While it didn't have a body count, Mount Kilauea's eruption in May devastated Big Island, chasing away residents but attracting tourists to this dangerous calamity.

The situation for 2019: Tour operators continue to run offerings to Big Island, and normal life is already back in swing. The volcano hasn't shown any recent signs of erupting again - the last active lava was seen in September.

California, US

What happened: The state has been plagued by deadly fires, destroying homes - even whole towns - and agricultural lands in their popular wine valleys. A lot of celebrities also lost their homes to ravaging fires.

The situation for 2019: The fires are still going on and off, with many people having lost their homes in the state's towns, but the main cities like Los Angeles remain unscathed. The burnt areas also pose mudslide and flash flood dangers.

SEE: Storm hits California, evacuations ordered in mudslide area

The Philippines

What happened: Its northern islands were hit by Typhoon Mangkhut, causing about $626.8 million (around R8.8 billion at R14,13/$) worth of damage. Luzon was the hardest hit by the storm.

The situation for 2019: After Mangkhut another typhoon made landfall in the Isabela province, which exacerbated the damage already done. The main tourist hubs and beaches however are open for business, but the Philippines is notorious for slow recovery after a typhoon.  

Hong Kong

What happened: Another destination hard-hit by Typhoon Mangkhut was Hong Kong, where a lot of damage was sustained to their high-rise buildings, and was the strongest typhoon to hit the city since 1983.

The situation for 2019: Thousands of trees were felled by the typhoon, making for a less green city, but although the debris on the beaches took months to clear, it should be back to normal in 2019.

SEE: South Africans can now fly direct between Cape Town and Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific

Southwestern Japan

What happened: Floods and mudslides devastated the area when three times the normal amount of rain fell during July, displacing thousands and causing hundreds of deaths.

The situation for 2019: Although the economy is still recovering, Japanese is well-known for their fast recovery rates after a disaster and plans are being made to strengthen infrastructure to withstand earthquakes and floods.


What happened: The island state was devastated by Cyclone Gita, the worst storm to hit the Pacific destination in 60 years. 

The situation for 2019: Main tourists hubs are recovered, but it's advisable to avoid cyclone season which is from January to March, with February being the most popular month for cyclones to hit.

SEE: Tonga begins cleanup while Fiji prepares for Cyclone Gita


What happened: The country's Fuego Volcano erupted unexpectedly which killed around 110 people, and the villages most affected are San Miguel Los Lotes and El Rodeo.

The situation for 2019: Some sources like The Conversation claim that the government has not provided much in way of recovery, and with ash turned to hard rock, potentially with bodies inside, it's best to avoid the area around the volcano to give the communities a chance to grieve and rebuild.

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