A natural wrath is now testing whether the structures built by China on the artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea is as solid as the communist giant’s resolve not to back down from its questionable – and now delegitimized – territorial claim.
The storm, which entered Hong Kong late Monday evening, is expected to batter mainland China around 4:00 am with strong winds and sea waves as high as 11 meters in the northern South China Sea before it makes landfall in Guangdong Province.
China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) on Monday had already issued a red alert for ocean waves and storm tides; the most severe level in China’s weather warming system for the typhoon.
In Hong Kong the storm was categorized as No. 8 warning signal; said to be the strongest typhoon in the region since 1983.
While it is expected to leave a massive trail of destruction in China, curious observers also want to know what happened to the fake islands after Typhoon Nida barreled through the contested waters before making landfall.
China has constructed civilian and military structures over these man-made features to solidify their claims. Among these are airstrips and other facilities housing their troops deployed to these islands.
“Typhoons and super typhoons occasionally rip through the South China Sea, especially during the summer months. A structure like Fiery Cross Reef is precarious enough in normal conditions. A super typhoon (pdf) carrying winds of 185 km per hour (115 mph) or higher and waves of possibly six meters (19 feet) could wipe it out, or cause severe damage at the very least,” said Steve Mollman of Quartz.
Mollman said many of these structures are facing their first typhoon season since construction began several months ago and Typhoon Nida may prove to be the biggest challenge to their stability especially that it is constantly hit by a great deal of wave energy, not to mention the rising sea levels.
As China promptly ignored the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling and vowed to continue building islands, “nature, though, may prove to be an even more powerful threat than international law,” said Mollman.
“While Beijing seems determined to weather the legal storm caused by its artificial islands, it remains to be seen whether its precarious structures can withstand natural storms,” he added.