What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, August 1

Flooding in eastern Kentucky on July 29. 2022. (Photo credit: @FEMA_Deanne on Twitter)

We know all too well that disaster can strike at any time, in any place in the world. Some disasters make headlines; others do not. Here at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we keep an eye on 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 Aug. 1, 2022.

New or Emerging Disasters

Flooding – Kentucky: Eastern Kentucky received up to 12 inches of rain in the past week, resulting in record flooding, extensive damage and loss of life. On Aug. 1, the death toll rose to 35, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said at a news conference in Frankfort. The governor warned that the death toll would likely rise as recovery efforts continue.

The flooding displaced thousands of people, damaged up to 50 bridges in Perry County alone and led to at least 22 water systems operating at limited capacity. On July 29, President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for Kentucky, providing federal aid to support recovery efforts. In addition to Public Assistance, Individual Assistance has been made available for individuals and households in five affected counties. More rain is expected on Aug. 1, likely producing more flooding across already saturated eastern parts of the state.

For more, see our 2022 Central Appalachia Flooding disaster profile.

Flooding – Missouri: Amid increasingly dry conditions came record rainfall to St. Louis and other parts of Missouri on July 26, followed by another round of rainfall on July 28. Authorities say two men were killed in the earlier storm. More than 9 inches of rain fell in the St. Louis area overnight, the highest 24-hour rainfall total on record in the city. At least four state highways and several other major roads were closed. Other communities in eastern Missouri received more than 10 inches of rainfall.

On July 26, Missouri’s Governor and Lieutenant Governor declared a state of emergency. Many homes were damaged, and assessments are ongoing while residents look toward recovery. Experts say that as the climate warms, flash floods will increase, and their duration will shorten as their magnitude increases.

Wildfire – California: The McKinney Fire began on July 29 in the Klamath National Forest in northern California. As of July 31, the fire had burned 52,498 acres making it the state’s largest wildfire this year. The cause of the fire is under investigation. The fire grew quickly over the weekend; lightning is expected on Aug. 1, complicating firefighting efforts.

Two people were found dead inside a vehicle in Siskiyou County that burned in the fire’s path. California Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency on July 30 for Siskiyou County, saying the fire destroyed homes and threatened critical infrastructure.

Earthquake – Philippines: On July 27, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the northwestern portion of the island of Luzon. The earthquake occurred at a shallow depth of approximately 6.2 miles (10 kilometers). The earthquake set off landslides and damaged buildings, with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. visiting affected areas on July 28. According to the Philippine government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, as of Aug. 1, the earthquake killed 10 people, displaced more than 50,000 and damaged nearly 25,000 homes.

Flooding – Iran: In the past week, 18 provinces of Iran have been affected by flood events. Heavy rain in Tehran province in northern Iran resulted in landslides and flash floods, causing damage and fatalities. The worst affected area was the village of Emamzadeh Davoud, where a landslide left 13 feet (four meters) of mud. In their July 29 Flash Update, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported the landslides and flooding left seven dead, nine injured and 19 missing.

Flooding – Yemen: Heavy rains caused multiple flooding events across the country in July, affecting thousands of people, mostly internally displaced people whose shelters, food and household items have been damaged. Immediate humanitarian needs include shelter and food. Recent flooding occurred July 22-24 in the capital Sanaa and the southwestern province of Dhamar, where at least nine people were killed.

Heatwave – Oregon and Washington: More than 30 million people in the U.S. were under various heat alerts on July 28, including the Pacific Northwest. At least seven people are suspected of having died from heat-induced hypothermia since the hot spell began last week. With temperatures rising over the weekend, officials set up overnight and daytime cooling centers.

CDP’s Extreme Heat Issue Insight has more information about this natural hazard and suggestions for how philanthropy can help during periods of extreme heat.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Wildfire – California: The Oak Fire began on July 22 near Midpines in Mariposa County, southwest of Yosemite National Park. As of Aug. 1, Cal Fire said the fire had burned 19,244 acres and was 72% contained, with 200 structures destroyed or damaged. Some residents in Mariposa County have begun returning home. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County on July 23.

The drought driven by climate change affecting California and other western states has left lots of dry, flammable material that can become fuel quickly.

For more, see our 2022 North American Wildfires disaster profile.

Monkeypox – Global: As of July 29, 2022, there are 22,485 global cases occurring in 79 countries. The highest number of cases have been found in the U.S. (4,906), followed by Spain (4,298), Germany (2,595), the United Kingdom (2,546) and France (1,955). The cases are growing quickly.

San Francisco became the first U.S. city to announce a state of emergency when officials in that city did so on July 28. On July 30, officials in New York City declared a public health emergency due to the spread of the virus, calling the city “the epicenter” of the outbreak. New York Governor Kathy Hochul proclaimed a state disaster emergency declaration on July 28, and the state health department called monkeypox an “imminent threat to public health.”

India confirmed its first monkeypox death on Aug. 1, Spain reported a second death in as many days on July 30, and Brazil reported its first death on July 29.

For more, see our Monkeypox Global Outbreak disaster profile.

Humanitarian Crisis – Ukraine: As of July 26, there have been more than 9.9 million border crossings from Ukraine since Feb. 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. As of July 27, United Nations (UN) agencies and partners have reached 11.6 million people with life-saving assistance. The situation in Ukraine remains volatile and dangerous for civilians as the war has entered its sixth month. Current humanitarian gaps include providing assistive devices for people with disabilities and older people, funding for shelter and food security and livelihoods and equipment and services to support online learning.

According to Candid, 1,366 grants worth $1,321,206,941 have been granted so far, with an additional 180 pledges worth $707,008,080. Funders can share their grants data with them by emailing egrants@candid.org.

For more, see the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis disaster profile and Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Recovery Fund.

Worldwide – Coronavirus: 

Key facts as of Aug. 1:

  • Worldwide, cases have surpassed 582 million.
  • There have been more than 552 million recoveries and more than 6.4 million deaths.
  • The highest number of cases are in the U.S. (93.08 million), followed by India (44.03 million), France (33.85 million) and Brazil (33.83 million). This past week, France’s cases surpassed Brazil’s.
  • Worldwide, 67% of the global population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This number drops to only 19.9% in low-income countries.

Other notable news:

  • Pfizer and Moderna say they will have the retooled boosters ready by the fall. The new vaccines are being reformulated to perform better against the contagious omicron subvariant BA.5 and the BA.4 subvariant. The U.S. government has purchased millions of doses, but it is insufficient to inoculate every American.

For more, see the COVID-19 Coronavirus disaster profile.

U.S. Midwest Low-Attention Disasters

The Midwest is regularly faced with low-attention disasters that affect people across the region. CDP’s Midwest Early Recovery Fund (ERF) effectively funds efforts that catalyze equitable disaster recovery.

These are some of the latest disasters the ERF team is monitoring:

  • A large wildfire burned 18,000 acres in Woodward County, Oklahoma. The fire began on July 27 and forced the evacuation of about 80 households. The high temperatures and lack of rain complicated firefighting efforts.
  • Straight line winds on July 23 caused damage in parts of eastern Iowa. Portions of Winneshiek and Allamakee Counties were some of the hardest hit areas, with reports of damage to trees and buildings. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a disaster declaration for Allamakee, Clayton and Winneshiek counties and Harrison and Shelby counties in western Iowa.
  • On May 12, a derecho caused at least $1 billion in damage in the Northern Plains. At least three people died in the Dakotas and Minnesota. President Biden has issued a federal disaster declaration for 20 Nebraska counties.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Haiti

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 and tracked.

The COVID-19 pandemic, gang violence and a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that affected more than 800,000 people in August 2021 have increased humanitarian needs in Haiti. According to the 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview, 4.9 million Haitians, 43% of the population, will need humanitarian assistance this year.

Gang violence has been on the rise since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last year, with the current government struggling to crack down on gangs, reduce the spike in kidnappings and form a coalition government. According to the UN, 471 people were killed, injured or unaccounted for following intense gang violence in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, between July 8 and 17. The violence has displaced at least 3,000 people, and UN agencies are delivering humanitarian assistance.

Haiti’s fragile health system continues to be further weakened by each new disaster or round of violence. The violence forced Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to close their long-established emergency center in Martissant, a neighborhood in west Port-au-Prince, in August 2021. They now provide services in a nearby neighborhood that is safer. Access to medical care remains limited and a serious concern.

Hunger levels in the country are expected to rise as the war in Ukraine impacts global supplies and gang violence continues to restrict the movement of goods in the country. Spring crops may help improve food availability, but rising prices and instability are limiting households’ access to food. Plan International says pregnant women and girls are among those most impacted by Haiti’s hunger crisis.

What We’re Reading

  • USAID Chief Visits Horn of Africa Amid Severe Regional Hunger Crisis – VOA: During a three-day visit to East Africa, USAID Administrator Samantha Power said a concerted effort is needed to overcome the regional humanitarian crisis. The Horn of Africa is experiencing a drought that is leaving millions on the brink of starvation.
  • FEMA report: Flood insurance hikes will drive 1M from market – Associated Press: FEMA has updated its flood insurance program to more accurately reflect risk and make the program more solvent. However, the agency’s internal numbers have predicted policies would drop off by 20%, a concern given that climate change will drive increased flood risk in many parts of the country.
  • How the Government Is Failing Americans Uprooted by Calamity – The New York Times: Returning survivors to their homes after disasters is a serious challenge. The U.S. government agencies responsible for helping disaster survivors were designed before climate change made disasters more frequent and severe, and a lack of planning and coordination hampers them.
  • An Equitable and Coordinated Disaster Response is Possible: Q&A with Elaine Morales – Medium: Elaine Morales, director of partnerships and policy at Connective, describes their work on a local Nonprofit Disaster Recovery Framework, a comprehensive disaster recovery playbook specific to Houston that aims to build a culture of adaptation into disaster response.
  • U.S. triples reforestation spending for wildfire devastation – Reuters: “The United States on Monday said it had tripled annual reforestation spending to tackle a four million acre replanting backlog driven by intense, climate-driven wildfires.” The reforestation drive is the largest in the country since the 1930s.

I learned last week that July 29 is observed as International Tiger Day. In India, a country with 52 tiger reserves, there was an outpouring of social media messages supporting the day, including beautiful photos of the animals.