What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, April 8

Flooding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 4, 2024. (Photo credit: Abby Bonilla)

We know all too well that disaster can strike anytime, anywhere in the world. Some disasters make headlines; others do not. Here at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), we monitor the status of disasters worldwide and compile a list of the ones we’re tracking weekly, along with relevant disaster-related media coverage.

Here’s what we’re watching for the week of April 8, 2024.

New or Emerging Disasters

Earthquake – Taiwan: A 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan on April 3, leaving at least 13 dead and nearly 1,000 injured. Despite being the strongest earthquake to hit Taiwan in 25 years, the toll on the islands was relatively contained due to Taiwan’s excellent earthquake preparedness and response plans, strict building codes, a world-class seismological network and widespread public education campaigns. Such measures have improved Taiwan’s resilience to earthquakes and mitigate damage and loss of life, potentially catastrophic in places with low resilience and preparedness to such disasters.

As of April 5, over 650 people remain stranded in locations cut off by damage but in contact with rescue teams.

Donate now to support the long-term recovery of Taiwan earthquake survivors through the CDP Global Recovery Fund.

Disease — Texas: The CDC issued a health alert on April 5 after a person in Texas was diagnosed with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza after contact with infected dairy cows. Commonly called “bird flu,” this is the first known instance globally of a person catching this version from a mammal. It is also believed to be the first time the virus has been transmitted to cattle. However, no evidence of person-to-person spread or infection from milk or meat from livestock has been reported so far.

The bird flu outbreak in dairy cows has affected at least 13 herds across six states, and approximately 1.9 million pullets and laying hens from the largest producer of fresh eggs in the U.S. These birds, representing 3.6% of the company’s flock, were destroyed after the infection was found in Cal-Maine Foods, Inc.’s Texas facility. Cat infections have also been reported in Texas recently.

Flooding — Pennsylvania: Heavy rainfall within 72 hours caused Pittsburgh rivers to reach their highest levels in nearly two decades. Flood-prone sections of the city were closed after significant floods were recorded, particularly from the Ohio River.

After water recedes and clean-up crews remove mud and debris from the area, an assessment of damages to parks, trails and buildings is expected to occur on April 9. Towns around Pittsburgh also experienced heavy flooding and landslides, forcing roads and businesses to close and some from their homes.

Drought — Zimbabwe: On April 3, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a national disaster caused by prolonged drought. With low rainfall due to El Niño and grain shortages, the country needs $2 billion for humanitarian assistance to address hunger and food insecurity.

In addition to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi declared states of disaster due to drought in the last two months. Some say this may be the worst drought sweeping southern Africa in decades.

Flooding — Kazakhstan and Russia: More than 4,000 people were evacuated from the Orenburg region in southwest Russia near the Kazakhstan border after the Ural River burst through a dam and flooded more than 6,000 homes. Authorities in Orenburg described it as the worst flooding to hit the region since records began. The floods displaced nearly 75,000 people and about 60,000 farm animals in Kazakhstan. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said this was the worst disaster in 80 years.

Russian authorities estimate the waters will dissipate after April 20, and damages will amount to about $227 million. Five casualties have been reported as of April 8 in Kazakhstan and Russia.

Tornado – Central U.S.: A powerful line of storms passed through the U.S. on April 2, causing tornadoes in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. At least nine tornadoes touched down in Kentucky and southern Indiana, resulting in at least 10 people injured and one casualty due to an accident during the intense storms. Four low-grade tornadoes were confirmed in Ohio, bringing heavy rain and resulting in at least 44 flood reports. West Virginia’s Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency after an EF-2 left debris on the streets, damaged buildings and nearly 140,000 residents without power.

For more, see our 2024 U.S. Tornadoes disaster profile.

Wildfire – Oklahoma: On April 6, multiple fires were reported across northwestern Oklahoma, burning over 5,200 acres (about 2,104 hectares). Around 300 people were evacuated from the town of Sharon, and two volunteer firefighters were in recovery after sustaining burns while battling the fires. The fires were fueled by winds at 60 mph. No residential structures were burned; as of April 8, it stands at 45% contained.

For more, see our 2024 North American Wildfires disaster profile.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Technological disaster – Maryland: Since the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, salvage, search and clean-up efforts have been ongoing. Officials have also established a temporary alternate channel for clean-up vessels.

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to open a limited-access channel for container ships by the end of April and restore the port’s normal capacity by May 31. Over 50 salvage divers and 12 cranes are on site to support clean-up and debris removal efforts.

Six construction workers were killed on March 26. As of April 8, the bodies of three men were recovered, while three others remain missing.

Tropical Cyclone – Madagascar: Tropical Cyclone Gamane hit Madagascar on March 27 and left 18 people dead and four people missing. The government declared a national emergency on April 3. Around 535,000 people were affected, more than 18,800 homes flooded, and 22 health centers and 165 classrooms were damaged. As of an April 3 update from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, emergency relief stocks were alarmingly low. Critical needs were identified as food, water treatment products, debris clean-up efforts, healthcare services and medicine. Additional funding is needed to ensure relief supplies are delivered through cargo air assistance.

In addition to the disasters listed above, we actively monitor the following disasters or humanitarian emergencies. For more information, see the relevant disaster profiles, which are updated regularly.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies Central African Republic

Many places worldwide are experiencing emergencies caused by conflict, climate change, drought, famine, economic challenges and other conditions that combine to create a complex humanitarian emergency (CHE). CDP maintains complete profiles on several CHEs, and what CDP considers Level 1 CHEs are profiled in this weekly blog post and tracked.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) latest Situation Report, over 29,000 Sudanese refugees fleeing the conflict have arrived in the Central African Republic (CAR) since April 2023. The insecurity in Sudan has affected the transportation of goods between the two countries, causing food prices to almost double in CAR towns near the border.

This comes at a time when acute food insecurity is already increasing and is projected to reach severe levels if adequate responses are not taken. Additionally, between April and July, crisis levels of acute food insecurity are expected due to armed group activity and presence, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) analysis.

In addition to food insecurity, incidents involving explosive devices in 2023 have increased by 24% compared with 2022. Nearly 770,000 people residing in west CAR are at risk of having their aid delayed or suspended due to the presence or suspected presence of explosive devices.

Nearly 5,000 fighters have put down arms since a nationwide disarmament program began in 2015. However, the UN reported losing track of around 70% of those who participated. Many former combatants say the training through the program isn’t long enough to learn a skill and make a living. Others are allegedly recruited by Wagner, a Russian mercenary group accused of exploiting CAR’s rich mines and forests and collecting information about rebels. CAR has been in conflict since 2013, and challenges of disarmament and reintegration remain.

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What We’re Reading

  • As World Marks Health Day, Healthcare Remains Inaccessible to Many Migrants: IOM Report – IOM: Findings from a new report show that migrant inclusion and access to essential services remain a global challenge. For example, 18% of European-assessed countries legally enshrine the right to access health services compared to 70% in the Americas.
  • FEMA: SW Florida Stripped of Flood Insurance Discounts After ‘Improper Rebuilds’ – Insurance Journal: In southwest Florida, more than 115,000 property owners are facing 25% higher flood insurance rates due to local officials approval of subpar rebuilding for flood-damaged homes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency released news of altering discounts with no warning on March 28.
  • How to fund refugee-led aid – The New Humanitarian: Widespread misconceptions and perceptions have led donors to overlook refugee-led organizations (RLOs). However, supporting RLOs can increase the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of refugee responses.
  • What Does it Mean for Funders to Listen Well? – The Center for Effective Philanthropy: Three concepts, listening with intention and ability to respond, listening broadly, and closing the loop, are at the heart of what it means for funders to listen well. The most effective listening engages community members as partners and participants, ensuring it informs strategy, program innovation and future planning.
  • What Worries Funders and Grantees Most About AI – Peak Grantmaking: There are deep concerns about how integrating artificial intelligence (AI) within the social sector may cause the loss of humanity. AI cannot replace uniquely human insights and ideas, but using it responsibly can help fast-track processes and automate mundane tasks.
  • Why is Taiwan so exposed to earthquakes and so well prepared to withstand them? – Associated Press: Taiwan experienced one of its most powerful earthquakes in a quarter of a century; however, the toll was relatively contained due to excellent earthquake preparedness. From strict building codes, widespread public education campaigns, and world-class seismological networks, Taiwan can mitigate catastrophic damage and loss of life.

The world’s oldest man says the secret to his long life is luck and a certain type of food, and it’s not vegetables.

Tenzin Kyizom

Tenzin Kyizom

Strategy, Innovation and Special Projects Content Development Associate