What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, February 13

Search and rescue efforts continue in Turkey after the earthquake, Feb. 13, 2023. (Source: Yunus Sezer, Head of AFAD via 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 Feb. 13, 2023.

New or Emerging Disasters

Earthquake – Indonesia: According to Indonesian authorities, a 5.4 magnitude earthquake occurred on Feb. 9 near Jayapura City, on the northeastern coast of the Indonesian Province of Papua. Buildings were damaged, and at least four people were killed when a café collapsed during the earthquake and fell into the sea. Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency says the earthquake was one of more than a thousand recorded in the area since January this year.

Landslides – Peru: Landslides resulting from heavy rainfall caused devastation in parts of the Arequipa Department and some districts in Lima Department. Dramatic video captured a landslide in Secocha which destroyed houses and left debris behind. The city of Secocha is vulnerable to landslides and landslides scars, and large amounts of debris are detected on the slopes upstream.

According to the Civil Protection of Peru (INDECI per its acronym in Spanish), as of Feb. 9, the affected locations in Arequipa were Miski, San Martín, Secocha and Urasqui in the district of Mariano Nicolas Valcárcel. INDECI said 16 deaths were reported in addition to 27 people injured, 20 missing and at least 1,105 homes affected.

Tropical Cyclone – New Zealand: Gabrielle, downgraded to a sub-tropical low-pressure system from a Category 2 cyclone, hit Australia’s Norfolk Island on Feb. 11, before tracking to New Zealand. Norfolk Island was spared the worst of the storm, but New Zealand’s North Island and its largest city Auckland, prepared for the storm’s impact on Feb. 12.

Whangarei, a city north of Auckland, had received 4 inches (100.5 millimetres) of rain, while winds of 100 miles per hour (159 kilometers per hour) were recorded off the coast of Auckland. On Feb. 13, around 58,000 homes were without power on the upper North Island as the storm brought strong winds, heavy rain and huge swells.

The storm was expected to intensify on Feb. 13 and could cause storm surges not seen for 40 years. Severe winds and rain could affect already soaked land, risking structural problems, landslides, falling trees and power line problems. Recovery is ongoing from last month’s record rains and subsequent flooding in the North Island that left four people dead. That disaster triggered large numbers of landslides, some of which caused extensive damage.

Tornadoes – Mississippi and Louisiana: The National Weather Service in New Orleans confirmed two tornadoes during a Feb. 8 storm. One tornado was an EF-2 which impacted Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, and the second, rated EF-0, impacted rural portions of Walthall County, Mississippi. In Tangipahoa Parish, the tornado damaged mobile homes and injured three individuals.

Water Crisis – Michigan: Residents of Flint, Michigan are under a boil water advisory officials announced on Feb. 10 until a water line break can be repaired and the system can be flushed and tested for bacteria. The failure of the water main caused a drop in water pressure citywide, which can allow contaminants to enter the water supply. Flint officials have not identified the cause of the main break.

The latest issue is another setback for the city’s embattled water system. Flint suffered a years-long water crisis in 2014 after budget cuts prompted a change in the city’s water source. While a prominent example of aging and neglected water infrastructure, the city of Flint is not the only community in the U.S. struggling to deliver safe water to residents.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Earthquake – Turkey and Syria: One week after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake shook Turkey and Syria, the disaster’s death toll reached at least 36,217 as of the morning of Feb. 13, with 31,643 confirmed dead in Turkey. Syria’s death toll of 4,574 includes more than 3,160 in opposition-held regions and 1,414 deaths in government-controlled areas.

While aid for Turkey has arrived, very little has reached northern Syria due to political divisions there after more than 12 years of civil war. On Feb. 12, Martin Griffiths, the United Nation’s (UN) top aid official said, “We have so far failed the people in north-west Syria. They rightly feel abandoned. Looking for international help that hasn’t arrived.”

Fifty-two UN trucks with relief supplies have entered Syria through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, currently the only one authorized by the UN Security Council for aid shipments. The U.S. Ambassador to the UN has urged the UN Security Council to approve two additional access points to deliver aid to earthquake-affected parts of Syria.

In northwest Syria, at least 11,000 people are homeless and more than 7,400 buildings have been damaged. To make matters worse, flooding in the village of Al Tlul in Idleb affected 1,000 homes and forced 7,000 people to evacuate. Priority needs in northwest Syria include heavy machines for debris removal; medical supplies; shelter and non-food items, including heating; emergency food and water; sanitation; and hygiene assistance.

The Turkish government has mobilized a large-scale aid effort, distributing essential items and building tent cities. On Feb. 10, Turkish President Erdogan said that the government will pay citizens’ rent for one year if they do not wish to stay in tents. Poor building construction in Turkey is coming under scrutiny in the aftermath of the earthquake.

For more, see our 2023 Turkey-Syria Earthquake 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 – Somalia

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.

In 2023, Somalia’s humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. The severe drought, hunger, disease and violence bring Somalia to the brink of famine. More than 8.3 million Somalis, 49% of the population, are expected to face high levels of acute food insecurity between April and June 2023.

The current drought is the longest and most severe in recent history and has surpassed the 2010/2011 and 2016/2017 droughts in terms of duration and severity. A forecast from the Climate Hazard Center warned that the Horn of Africa region, which includes Somalia, is likely headed for a sixth poor rainy season this spring, from March to May 2023.

An estimated 8.25 million people, including 1.5 million children under five, require humanitarian assistance this year. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says, “Somalis are hungrier, sicker and more vulnerable than a year ago, pushing an ever greater number of people into reliance on humanitarian assistance for survival.”

Somalia’s 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) requests $2.6 billion to reach 7.6 million people. The HRP seeks “to align with relevant resilience and durable solutions frameworks, with the aim to reduce humanitarian needs, risks, and vulnerabilities in the medium to longer term.”

In a blog post, CDP’s Alex Gray echoed the HRP’s sentiment by calling on funders to commit to a “two-track approach” that helps communities in the Horn of Africa, including Somalia, build their resilience and adapt to the new cyclical drought patterns.

Conflict continues to impact access to basic services, contribute to food insecurity and perpetuate decades of trauma and grief for Somali people. Hodan Ali, Senior Policy Advisor, Health and Social Services, for the Office of the Somalia President, wrote in The New Humanitarian, that “invisible wounds” keep people from engaging in recovery, reconciliation, and civic engagement initiatives.

On Feb. 9, CDP hosted a webinar to help funders understand the growing hunger crisis around the world and what philanthropy can do to prevent avoidable deaths from malnutrition and starvation. A recording and the webinar’s slide deck are available.

What We’re Reading

  • A reading list on the pre-quake crisis in Syria’s rebel-held northwest – The New Humanitarian: “Here are five articles to help get you up to speed on what life has been like for the past few years for the 4.6 million people in the region, the vast majority of whom were already in need of some sort of emergency aid.”
  • Gangs, cholera and political turmoil leave half Haiti’s children relying on aid – The Guardian: The United Nations Children’s Fund Haiti representative says at least 2.6 million children are expected to need immediate lifesaving assistance this year as the overlapping crises leave Haiti’s children in the worst position since the earthquake of 2010. The UN agency called on the international community to urgently increase support for Haiti.
  • The unexpected barrier preventing American small towns from accessing federal climate funds – Grist: To access funding in the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that President Joe Biden signed in 2021 to make America’s infrastructure more resilient to climate change, a local match of the total project cost is required. Analysis by Headwaters Economics warns that local match requirements are putting rural communities at a disadvantage.
  • Western wildfires destroyed 246% more homes and buildings over the past decade – fire scientists explain what’s changing – The Conversation: In almost every Western U.S. state, “more homes and buildings were destroyed by wildfire over the past decade than the decade before, revealing increasing vulnerability to wildfire disasters.” Preventing wildfire disasters means minimizing unplanned human-related ignitions.
  • Gentrification By Fire – The Washington Post: In the past five years, almost 25,000 homes and other buildings across California have been destroyed by fires. Many of the survivors have been left without adequate insurance or financial means to rebuild. “Those who remained are in large part the well-off and the well-insured, a trend helping remake and re-sort communities across the state by rich and poor.”
  • Making All Feel Welcome – PEAK Grantmaking: Argosy Foundation Program Officer Isabella Gargiulo, Energy Foundation Senior Director of Grants Management Tiauna George, and Native Americans in Philanthropy CEO Erik Stegman offer their reflections on challenges they’ve faced and advice for organizations and colleagues. There are ways you can lead the charge so that peers and leaders also become deeply committed to cocreating an organizational culture of belonging for all.

If you are familiar with CDP, you’ll know we advocate for investments in preparedness. A woodpecker’s “preparedness” brought a California homeowner an unexpected surprise in the form of 700 pounds worth of acorns stored in their home’s wall.