What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, February 12

The Philippine Coast Guard rescuers and dogs search for survivors following the landslide incident on Feb. 6, 2024. (Photo credit: Philippine Coast Guard via X)

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 Feb. 12, 2024.

New or Emerging Disasters

Dengue outbreak – Brazil: Just a few days shy of the world-famous Carnival, Rio de Janeiro declared a state of public health emergency due to an epidemic of dengue fever. Over 395,000 cases of infections were reported in the first five weeks of 2024, four times more than in the same period of 2023. As of Feb. 7, the health ministry reported 53 confirmed deaths, and officials are still analyzing 281 other deaths.

Record heat and above-average rainfall have attributed to the increase in mosquito breeding sites, according to Nisia Trindade, Brazil’s health minister. The ministry also warned that it expects more than 4.2 million cases of dengue fever this year, which outstrips the 4.1 million cases recorded last year for all 42 countries in the Pan-American region.

Landslide – Philippines: At least 68 people are known to have died following a landslide on Tuesday, Feb. 6, in Masara village, southern Philippines. The disaster struck Tuesday night, engulfing four buses and destroying 55 homes in the gold mining village.

Due to the mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall, and deforestation from illegal logging and mining, landslides are frequent natural hazards across the Philippines.

Rescuers were forced to pause operations on Feb. 10 when a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit the area.

Officials claim 53 people are still missing, and disaster authorities plan to shift from search and rescue to search and retrieval beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 13. The U.S. is providing $1.25 million in humanitarian aid for affected communities through the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as two cargo planes to help deliver food packs.

Tornadoes – Wisconsin: On Feb. 8, rural areas of southern Wisconsin experienced their first recorded tornadoes in February, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Milwaukee. Temperatures were about 25 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual, and scientists expect warmer temperatures and more frequent severe weather due to carbon pollution raising global temperatures.

As NWS crews assess damages that included dead and missing cows, shattered windows, and destroyed sheds and barns the tornado has been categorized as a high-end EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

Tornadoes are most common between May and August in Wisconsin.

Toxic smoke – Australia: A warehouse storing agricultural supplies in Perth’s heavy industrial complex caught ablaze on Friday, Feb. 9. Hazmat warnings were issued for people living in the residential suburbs as potentially dangerous smoke spread throughout Kwinana. More than 40,000 people live in the affected areas, and residents were warned to stay indoors with the air conditioning turned off.

Seventy firefighters were at the scene, and the fire was brought under control during the afternoon. By Saturday, Feb. 10, 12 firefighters remained, and nearby residents were still advised to stay indoors to avoid fumes and smoke. Perth is experiencing a summer heat wave, with temperatures reaching 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit).

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Complex Humanitarian Emergency – Sudan: Sudan has been in a state of conflict since April 2023. In northern Darfur’s Zamzam displacement camp, 13 children are dying each day due to severe malnutrition, and one child dies every two hours in the camp, according to Doctors without Borders (MSF).

Since war broke out between Sudan’s military and paramilitary forces, residents have been cut off from medical and humanitarian aid. Despite MSF increasing the scale of assistance in response to the disaster, other aid groups, such as the United Nations World Food Program, have stopped food distributions since May 2023.

Ten months into the civil war, aid groups and famine experts have sounded the alarm on acute hunger and looming famine. An estimated 18 million people are facing emergency levels of hunger, and aid agencies are calling for $4.1 billion in funding to avert a catastrophe.

Currently, more than 9 million people are estimated to be internally displaced, and 1.5 million have sought refuge in neighboring countries, Chad, South Sudan and Ethiopia. At least 12,000 people have been killed in Sudan’s conflict, and all mediation to end the conflict has been unsuccessful.

For more, see our Sudan Humanitarian Crisis disaster profile.

Storm – California: California has been experiencing an intense, long-lasting atmospheric river, bringing widespread power outages, mudslides and life-threatening flooding.

Strong winds knocked out power for nearly 300,000 customers, and more than 16 million people across Southern California were at high risk of excessive rainfall. Scientists have pointed to the broader climate crisis and El Niño as factors for the storm.

Many communities affected by the floods in San Diego County, which inundated homes and swept cars off the street, were low-income, with a majority of Latino and Black residents. The impact on these communities highlights the inequality in public investment for climate resiliency and how disasters can permanently displace low-income households.

Wildfires – Hawaii: Thousands of people displaced by the deadly Maui wildfires in 2023 are still in limbo. Five thousand survivors are currently suffering from a housing crisis exacerbated by the disaster, which killed 100 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes and businesses.

Feb. 8 marked six months since the wildfires erupted across Maui. In a press conference that day, officials said they aim to relocate thousands of families in hotels into long-term lodging by summer through new policies and tax incentives for short-term rental owners to lease units to survivors.

Governor Josh Green also mentioned a $175 million recovery compensation fund for families who lost loved ones in Lahaina. Eligible families can receive $1.5 million, which may also be large enough to compensate those who have lost land. The fund will officially launch on March 1, 2024.

For more, see our 2023 North American Wildfires disaster profile.

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.

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 and related news the ERF team is monitoring:

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Colombia 

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.

Colombia has experienced a surge in the rate of kidnapping and disappearances in 2023, as well as decades of violence. As the government led by President Gustavo Petro works toward negotiating peace deals and achieving “total peace” in Colombia, a recent six-month extension of a landmark truce with The National Liberation Army (ELN) offers a glimmer of hope to end further armed conflict and violence.

Despite the reduced number of battles between the government and ELN, Colombia’s peace commissioner found that peace deals have little impact on the ground. Elizabeth Dickinson from the International Crisis Group said, “Violence in Colombia has long come from combats between illegal groups and the pressure they exert on civilians.”

Additionally, the country has the highest recurrence of extreme events in South America, with at least 84% of the population exposed to two or more hazards. In January, a deadly landslide struck a busy road connecting Quibdo and Medellin’s cities. A search and rescue operation reported 34 deaths, including children, and 35 sustained injuries.

Since mid-January, the country has also been battling wildfires in the mountains surrounding Bogota, Colombia’s capital. Due to high temperatures and drought exacerbated by El Niño, the president declared a national disaster and requested international aid in fighting the fires.

Colombia’s environment ministry has allocated over $2 billion for fire preparedness and response and established a community network for prevention and communication. Others have criticized the administration for not taking concrete steps to prepare and respond to disasters.

Upcoming webinar

March 14: From pets to heroes: The role of animals in disaster response and recovery

What We’re Reading

  • 2023 was the hottest year on record. It also pushed the world over a dangerous line. – Vox: Berkeley Earth, an independent climate research group, reported that the average temperature rose above 1.54 Celsius (2.77 Fahrenheit) in 2023, a limit established in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
  • Digital money apps become a lifeline in war-affected Sudanese – The New Humanitarian: Banking apps for online payment of essentials and other goods are a digital safety net for millions of Sudanese whose lives have been upended by the war since April 2023. From avoiding embattled neighborhoods to coping with reduced bank hours, apps are more than a convenience.
  • There’s still “a ton more work to do” in Maui’s fire recovery – Honolulu Civil Beat: Progress has been made. However, a new finding from a University of Hawaii survey suggests troublesome rates of depression and respiratory problems. This comes as residents face a lack of stable housing and livelihoods.
  • Time to ‘Talk the Walk’ on DEI in AsiaAlliance: The Asia Philanthropy Congress 2023 brought together influential figures from philanthropy, NGOs, foundations and other sectors across Asia to focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).
  • Why is the world’s humanitarian aid gap getting bigger? – Context: As wars and climate change-related disasters push global aid to record highs, donors and aid have lagged due to cuts in spending and assistance.

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Tenzin Kyizom

Tenzin Kyizom

Strategy, Innovation and Special Projects Content Development Associate