What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, March 21

Fire burning in Texas, March 2022. Over the past seven days, firefighters responded to 178 wildfires that burned 108,493 acres across the state.(Source: Texas A&M Forest Service 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 (CDP), 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 March 21, 2022.

New or Emerging Disasters
Earthquake – Japan: A 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima in northern Japan on March 16. A tsunami warning was issued but later lifted. Four people were killed, and more than 100 people were injured during the earthquake. Wednesday’s quake came days after the region observed the 11th anniversary of the deadly 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami. The country’s Meteorological Agency warned the public that seismic activity might continue for a few days.

Landslide – Peru: A landslide occurred on March 15 in Retamas, in Peru’s La Libertad region, destroying several homes and killing at least two people. According to Peru’s National Civil Defense Institute (INDECI), the landslide was the result of heavy rains. The affected area is heavily impacted by mining, including informal mining, which may explain the environmental damage seen in satellite images.

Wildfires – Texas: Multiple wildfires began burning on March 16 southwest of Eastland, Texas. The fires are known as the Eastland Complex and include the Walling, Wheat Field, Kidd and Oakmont Fires. As of March 20, the fires have burned more than 54,000 acres and are 30% contained. The fires’ fuels include tall grass and timber, and sustained winds are in the forecast. The town of Carbon in Eastland County lost nearly 90 homes, according to local officials. At least one person, an Eastland County Sheriff Deputy, has been killed. While the Eastland Complex is the largest of the active fires in the state, it is not the only one. The Texas Forest Service said on March 20 that 175 wildfires had burned nearly 95,000 acres across the state in the past week.

Please see our 2022 North American Wildfires Disaster Profile for information on wildfires across the continent and how to help.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters
Flooding – Australia: Cleanup efforts have begun in eastern Australia following intense flooding in early March that caused widespread destruction in Queensland and New South Wales (NSW). At least 20 people were killed during the flooding, and tens of thousands of people were forced from their homes. According to the Insurance Council of Australia, more than 118,000 claims have been filed, totaling an estimated US$1.31 billion (AU$1.77 billion). NSW announced an inquiry to “investigate the causes of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from the catastrophic flood event.”

Please see our 2022 Australian Flooding Disaster Profile to learn more about this disaster and how to help.

Tornadoes – U.S. Midwest

  • Iowa A series of tornadoes hit several counties near Des Moines on March 5, killing seven people and causing injuries. The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed that the tornado that hit Madison County was an EF4, making it the strongest tornado to hit the state since 2013. The tornado was also the strongest to form so early in the U.S. so far north. Although warnings for Madison County had a 23-minute lead time, which is well above the national average of 10 minutes, there was a delay caused by a damaged fiber optic cable. A bipartisan effort in Congress is underway to resolve the issue.
  • Arkansas At least five tornadoes touched down on March 6, with the NWS confirming there were four EF1 tornadoes and one EF2 tornado. Affected counties include Searcy, Stone, Arkansas, Lincoln and Pope. Some damage was reported to the Martin Township Fire Department, and two people were injured.

Tropical Cyclone – Mozambique: Cyclone Gombe made landfall over the coastal area of central Nampula province on March 11. As of March 18, at least 448,800 people have been affected, 80 people have been injured, and 53 have been killed. Nearly 21,000 people have been displaced, and more than 46,000 homes have been damaged. Gombe also hit the southern region of Malawi, killing at least seven people and causing heavy damage in about 10 districts. The cyclone came as both countries attempted to recover from Tropical Storm Ana which struck in January.

Wildfires – South Korea: On Friday, March 4, a large wildfire started in a forest on a mountain in Uljin county, a seaside area in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. The fire spread throughout the region, including north to the city of Samcheok in Gangwon Province. The fire in Uljin was extinguished on March 15, and the fires in Gangneung and Samcheok have also been contained. The fires burned nearly 60,000 acres (23,993 hectares), making them the worst wildfires since South Korea started keeping records in 1986.

Please see our South Korean Wildfires Disaster Profile for more information on this disaster.

Humanitarian Crisis – Ukraine: As of March 20, more than 3.4 million refugees have left the country since Feb. 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and those who have fled to other countries is around 9.8 million people, more than 23% of Ukraine’s population.

On March 18, the first United Nations (UN) organized convoy reached the city of Sumy, providing much-needed supplies to people there. Ongoing needs include food for babies, access to safe water and sanitation, enhanced capacity at reception centers for displaced people and provision of medicines for patients with chronic communicable diseases.

Civilian causalities and attacks on non-military targets continue to increase. As of March 20, the World Health Organization (WHO) has verified 52 attacks on health care in the previous 25 days. CDP’s response to this crisis is focused on humanitarian needs that arise, particularly among IDPs and refugees.

Please see our Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Disaster Profile for more information on this complex humanitarian emergency. Visit our Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Recovery Fund for details on how you can help meet the humanitarian challenges from the conflict in Ukraine.

Worldwide – Coronavirus: CDP maintains a profile updated weekly focusing on how philanthropy can help. As of March 21, worldwide cases have surpassed 471 million, and globally, new cases have increased slightly for the second week in a row after several weeks of declines with a seven-day moving average of approximately 1.64 million per day. There have been more than 407 million recoveries, and, officially, there have been over 6 million deaths.

Around the world, the highest number of cases are in the U.S. (81.4 million), followed by India (43 million), Brazil (29.6 million) and France (24.1 million). The number of daily new cases in the U.S. skyrocketed in late December and early January but have returned to much smaller numbers in the past few weeks. Meanwhile, the number of week-over-week new cases worldwide has increased to 11.48 million as of March 21, after weeks of steady declines. However, the number of weekly deaths continues to drop, with a 20% week-over-week decline – down to 34,341 as of March 21.

Worldwide, 64% of the global population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, though that number drops significantly to only 14.4% in low-income countries. Of the global number, 57.12% are considered fully vaccinated, having received the total number of doses as required by that vaccine. Portugal has one of the highest shares of people inoculated against COVID-19 (95%). China has 88.1%, Canada is at 85.8% and Brazil is at 84.2%. The U.S. has only vaccinated 76.6% of its eligible population.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
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 such as the Southern Border crisis, Venezuela Refugee Crisis and Ethiopia Tigray crisis. On March 10, CDP hosted a webinar entitled “Complex Humanitarian Emergencies: Where crisis, conflict, climate and COVID-19 meet” and a recording of the webinar is available.

In recent years, inter-communal and extremist violence in Mali has spilled into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger as Islamist armed groups expand their activities in the Sahel region. Recent data show that Burkina Faso has now replaced Mali, the birthplace of the regional conflict, as the epicenter of the crisis. The increased violence in 2021 in Burkina Faso led to 2,354 fatalities, exceeding that of Mali for the second time in three years.

The 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for Burkina Faso targets 3 million people in need. More than 1.74 million people are currently internally displaced, according to UNHCR. The conflict has exacerbated chronic vulnerability to various natural hazards and, combined with the effects of COVID-19, has left nearly 3 million people severely food insecure during the 2021 lean season. Less than 10% of the country’s population has been at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

Urgent needs include shelter, water and sanitation, health care, protection and food. The results of a community perception and satisfaction survey in 2021 show that affected communities rank food security, health care and adequate shelter among their most urgent needs. Women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities have the most needs.

Unfortunately, attacks against civilians have continued. At least 30 people were killed in attacks between March 10-13. Attacks by non-state armed groups continue to impede humanitarian access, especially in the Cascades, Centre-Nord, Est, Nord and Sahel regions.

What We’re Reading

  • The 2022 tornado season is going to be a doozy – Popular Science: Predictions put the number of tornadoes for 2022 at around 1,350 to 1,475, which is higher than the annual average of 1,253. Additionally, these tornadoes are likely to hit outside what has traditionally been known as “tornado alley.” Please see our Issue Insight on Tornadoes, to learn more about this natural hazard.
  • WHO says global rise in COVID cases is ‘tip of the iceberg’ – Reuters: After a recent decline, COVID-19 cases started to increase around the world last week. WHO said a combination of factors was causing the increases, including the Omicron variant and the lifting of public health and social measures. Experts have raised concerns that Europe faces another coronavirus wave.
  • Drought Set to Scorch California and U.S. West Again, Forecasters Say – BNN Bloomberg: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the western U.S. region faces another spring and summer of shrinking water resources and rising temperatures. Currently, almost 90% of nine western states are gripped by drought.
  • Changing snowfall makes it harder to fight fire with fire – Western Slope Now: “Western wildfires have become more volatile as climate change dries forests already thick with vegetation from years of intensive fire suppression. And the window for controlled burns is shrinking.”
  • Wildfires are getting worse, CU study finds – 7News Denver: New research from the University of Colorado Boulder found more fires across the U.S. in 2005-2018 compared to the previous two decades. Increased urban growth and human activity have contributed to the growth.
  • Rising diesel prices may affect emergency services in small towns – KAIT: As diesel prices rise, northeast Arkansas towns are growing concerned as fueling emergency vehicles becomes more costly. Local officials are trying to avoid making cuts to budgets that could affect the operations of police and fire departments.
  • What a century of rising seas can tell us about the next 30 years – Popular Science: According to recent projections in an interagency report released by NOAA, “Over the next 30 years, average sea level around the United States will be about a foot higher than it is today.”
  • How AI helped deliver cash aid to many of the poorest people in Togo – The Conversation: New research recently published in the journal Nature found that “Governments and humanitarian groups can use machine learning algorithms and mobile phone data to get aid to those who need it most during a humanitarian crisis.”
  • Biden Offers Protected Status to Afghans Already in the United States – The New York Times: The status will be extended to more than 74,000 Afghans living in the U.S. as of March 15. However, the program does not provide a path to a green card or citizenship, which advocates say is justified for those brought to the U.S. after assisting American forces.

With March Madness, a U.S. college basketball tournament, going on right now, it felt appropriate to end with an encouraging story about another basketball team. A group of Haitians living at a refugee shelter in northern Mexico has taken a local basketball league by storm.