What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, July 31

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 July 31, 2023.

New or Emerging Disasters

Heatwave – U.S.: Scientists predict July will be Earth’s hottest month. Excessive heat warnings and advisories were issued for more than 170 million Americans through the afternoon of July 29. Check this resource from the National Weather Service to learn about the difference between heat warnings, watches and advisories.

Instead of shifting from one geographic region to another, the recent heatwave has spread from western states to the east. Cities including St. Louis, Philadelphia and New York witnessed heat indexes well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.Over the coming week, dangerous heat levels are expected in the South, Midwest and West.

On July 27, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a heat hazard alert “to remind employers of their obligation to protect workers against heat illness or injury in outdoor and indoor workplaces.”

CDP Extreme Heat Issue Insight

This issue insight provides information about extreme heat and recommendations for philanthropy.

Flooding – Afghanistan: Heavy rainfall over the weekend resulted in deadly flooding in Kabul, Maidan Wardak and Logar provinces in Afghanistan. According to a spokesman for Taliban’s Ministry of Disaster Management, as of July 30, the floods killed at least 31 people, 41 remain missing and another 74 are injured. The spokesman added that the floods and heavy rain in seven provinces damaged 606 residential houses and hundreds of acres of agricultural land.

The International Rescue Committee said the disaster had disproportionately affected Maidan Warak and Logar provinces, where people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods and already face multiple challenges, including poverty and limited access to resources. The UN Children’s Fund said, “The frequency and intensity of these hazards are exacerbated by the effects of climate change and increasing humanitarian needs.”

For more, see our Afghanistan Humanitarian Crisis disaster profile.

Storms – Arizona: A severe thunderstorm and dust storm hit northern Arizona on July 26 as the 2023 monsoon season begins. The monsoon season in the region officially runs from June 15th to September 30th and is when much of the area receives up to 50% of its annual precipitation. The storm caused damage to mobile homes, toppled trees, disrupted power supply and ended a streak of record-breaking heat.

On the morning of July 27, the temperature in Phoenix fell below 90 degrees for the first time since July 9th. Initially, more than 43,000 customers in Phoenix, Glendale, the East Valley and Gold Canyon were without power, but crews had almost fully restored power to customers on July 27. The dust storm led to low visibility in the Phoenix area and dramatic images.

Typhoon – Asia: Typhoon Doksuri hit the Philippine island of Luzon on July 26, knocking down trees, taking out power and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people. Doksuri brought winds up to 108 miles per hour (175 kilometers per hour), with the province of Cagayan particularly affected. Although preparedness measures were taken before the storm, including evacuations, officials said Doksuri killed at least nine people. Another 26 were killed when a boat capsized in Rizal province, east of Manila.

Taiwanese authorities issued warnings for several counties and cities in the south, and some flights and ferry services were canceled.

Doksuri then made landfall in China’s southeastern coastal province of Fujian, killing at least four people and displacing thousands. Doksuri is the most powerful typhoon to make landfall in China and the strongest storm to hit Fujian since Typhoon Saomi in 2006. The storm could bring up to 40 inches of rain on July 31 to parts of Beijing and neighboring Hebei province. Forecasters warned that another typhoon, Khanun, was set to hit China’s densely populated coast this week.

Wildfire – California: The York Fire began on July 28 in the Mojave National Preserve in eastern San Bernardino County. As of July 31, the fire had burned 77,000 acres and was 0% contained. High winds are having a significant impact, making the fire much more dangerous and challenging to control. The fire crossed into Nevada, causing air quality concerns in the Las Vegas Valley. Fire whirls, a vortex of flames and smoke that form when intense heat and turbulent winds combine, creating a spinning column of fire, have been reported.

In Riverside County, the Bonny Fire, which began near the Cahuilla Indian Reservation south of Aguanga, had burned more than 2,200 acres as of July 30. One firefighter was injured working the blaze, and an evacuation order remained in effect for the area north of the San Diego County line on July 30.

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

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Flooding – Kentucky: Families and communities are still recovering one year after the devastating flood in eastern Kentucky that left 45 people dead and displaced thousands more. The need for housing remains acute. In this hilly region, many people live in the valleys, the lowlands or the lands alongside the streams.

Some in the floodplains are choosing to sell their home to the federal government through a voluntary buyout programaimed at keeping people out of vulnerable areas. However, others are choosing to rebuild or are forced to stay putbecause of a lack of options and trouble accessing resources.

The recovery needs are outstripping available resources. Philanthropy plays a vital role in supporting long-term recovery. Recognizing the need for safe and affordable housing, CDP provided a grant to Housing Development Alliance, Inc. to increase capacity to rebuild and repair homes in the flood-affected counties of Breathitt, Knott, Leslie and Perry.

Wildfires – Southern Europe: Last week, deadly fires continued to burn in Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.

In 2023, almost 30% more land has burned across the continent than the 20-year annual average. In Greece, that number is 83% above average.

On the Greek island of Rhodes, fires are burning on 10% to 20% of the island. Approximately 20,000 people have been evacuated from Rhodes. To the west of Athens, fires have damaged hundreds of homes. Two pilots were killed when a Greek air force water-dropping plane crashed while descending into a wildfire in southern Greece.

The city of Palermo on the Italian island of Sicily has been badly affected, with the fires responsible for the deaths of at least three people. Fires were also burning in Sardinia and Calabria, where multiple evacuations were ordered.

In Croatia, a wildfire was burning near the famous walled town of Dubrovnik.

More than 500 firefighters battled a blaze near the coastal city of Cascais, 19 miles west of Lisbon.

A hospital and at least a dozen homes were evacuated in the coastal town of Kemer, Turkey. As the fires raged, Pope Francis urged governments to do more to fight climate change.

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:

  • Mobile home residents have higher exposure to natural hazards than those living in other housing types. CDP grantee partner Matthew 25 created the Manufactured Home Disaster Recovery Playbook, which captures lessons learned from supporting manufactured home repair in Linn County, Iowa, following the August 2020 derecho.
  • A severe thunderstorm hit Ethan, South Dakota, and brought rain, hail and high winds of 75-80 miles per hour. A meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said damage reports from area communities were mostly trees and shingle damage.
  • Thunderstorms last week brought needed rain but also damaging wind gusts to west central Minnesota. Wind damage was reported in New London, Brooten and Belgrade communities. The Minnesota VOAD reported damage in Kandiyohi County and Stearns County. Less than a dozen homes were damaged in New London, and one was destroyed.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Chad

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.

On April 15, fighting erupted between the Sudanese Army Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in multiple locations across Sudan, resulting in a humanitarian crisis. Sudan’s Darfur region has experienced some of the worst atrocities of the conflict, with reports of mass graves, executions and villages burned.

Since the beginning of the fighting in April in Sudan, more than 225,000 people have crossed into Chad. The International Organization for Migration estimates that more than 48,000 are Chadian returnees. Humanitarian agencies report that some new arrivals are severely injured, and some children are malnourished.

The World Food Programme’s country director for Chad, Pierre Honnorat, said, “It’s no longer about giving them hope or safety. They need to eat every day. The situation is really critical.”

The priority has been to relocate people from spontaneous border sites to existing or newly established camps. However, this has been challenging, and the scale of the crisis requires more resources.

In the south of the country, communal violence has led to the displacement of about 26,000 people internally and across the border in the Central African Republic and the destruction of property and livelihoods.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, “There is a need to strengthen conflict prevention measures and to implement stabilisation and peace-building activities.”

In 2022, Chad experienced one of the worst floods in its recent history. The unprecedented flooding due to heavy rains from July until mid-September 2022 affected 19 of 23 provinces in the country, displaced hundreds of thousands and damaged more than 864,000 acres (350,000 hectares) of agricultural land. Recovery needs include livelihood and shelter support, strengthening resilience, and infrastructure repair and restoration.

Upcoming webinar

Aug. 10: Disaster case management: Navigating recovery one person at a time

What We’re Reading

  • U.S., European heat waves ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, study finds – National Public Radio: El Niño is likely contributing to some of the heat, the researchers said, “but the burning of fossil fuels is the main reason the heatwaves are so severe.” Even a slight rise in temperatures can lead to increased illness and death, according to the World Health Organization.
  • More than 40 million people in the U.S. live in urban heat islands, climate group finds – NBC News: An analysis published by Climate Central, a nonprofit research group, found that about 41 million people in the U.S. live in urban heat islands, where city topography elevates temperatures by at least 8 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • How Climate Change Is Driving Mass Human Displacement – Outlook India: “In the absence of official refugee status, those who get displaced or lose their livelihoods due to environmental phenomena are often left to fend for themselves.”
  • Hurricane Ian battered these middle-class beach communities. Repair costs finished them off. – Politico: “Hurricane Ian’s assault on southwest Florida last fall is speeding a transition already occurring in some of the state’s coastal communities — driving out middle- and working-class people and replacing them with deep-pocketed buyers.”
  • Climate Philanthropy Giants Launch $180 Million Fund to Implement Federal Legislation – Inside Philanthropy: A new fund, called Invest in Our Future, aims to ensure that all communities can access the more than $1 trillion in public and private investment expected to be sparked by recent federal bills.

Pakistan artist Ali Salman Anchan and his team painted a truck used as a mobile clinic with vibrant images to share people’s stories of resilience and recovery following last year’s devastating floods.