What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, May 23

Derecho damage in Bridgenorth, Ontario, Canada, May 2022. (Photo credit: Jennie Gulliver)

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 May 23, 2022.

New or Emerging Disasters

Derecho – Canada: The derecho, a line of widespread thunderstorms that move quickly across a long distance, swept through southern Ontario and Quebec on May 21. The damage extended roughly 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the Michigan border to Quebec City. Wind gusts above 74 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour) were recorded. At least nine people were killed, and damage to large swaths of the electrical grid affected close to a million households at the height of the power outages. As of Monday, May 23, more than 400,000 households were still without power. At least two Ontario towns – Uxbridge and Clarence-Rockland – have declared states of emergency due to damage and displacement.

Tornado – Michigan: On Friday, May 20, a powerful tornado with maximum winds of 150 miles per hour killed two people and injured 44 in the town of Gaylord, about 60 miles east of Traverse City. The National Weather Service (NWS) gave the tornado a rating of EF-3 based on a preliminary damage survey. Gaylord Mayor Todd Sharrard said the tornado damaged more than a dozen homes and 50 cars. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Otsego County. Aerial footage shows the devastation caused by the tornado. Tornadoes are rare in Michigan, and a tornado has never hit Gaylord since record-keeping started in 1950.

Monkeypox – Global: Cases of Monkeypox (part of the orthopoxvirus genus) have been reported in several countries, including England, Canada, the United States, Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Australia and Sweden. Similar to smallpox, although usually less severe, monkeypox can cause rashes, fever, headaches, muscle and backaches and swollen lymph nodes. The Congo strain has a 10% fatality rate, while the West Africa strain has a 1% fatality rate. As of May 21, the World Health Organization reported 98 confirmed cases and 22 probable cases. The U.S. has one confirmed case in Boston, with cases under investigation in Utah and Florida.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Wildfire – New Mexico: The Calf Canyon Fire and Hermits Peak Fire in northern New Mexico merged into what has become the largest active wildfire in the U.S. and the largest wildfire in the state’s history. As of May 23, the fire burned 311,166 acres and was 40% contained. On May 3, President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for New Mexico (DR-4652-NM) in response to the wildfires. Low temperatures and high humidity over the weekend helped firefighters make progress. On May 20, the U.S. Forest Service called a temporary nationwide halt to controlled burns given the high fire danger levels.

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

Humanitarian Crisis – Ukraine: As of May 22, more than 6.5 million refugees have left the country since Feb. 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. As of May 12, United Nations (UN) agencies and partners have reached more than 6.4 million people with life-saving assistance. The humanitarian conditions continue to deteriorate, and needs are growing, especially in southern and eastern Ukraine. There are widescale disruptions to electricity, gas and water supplies in these parts of the country.

According to Candid, 816 grants worth $1,067,328,982 have been granted so far, with an additional 163 pledges worth $683,430,680. 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 May 23:

  • Worldwide, cases have surpassed 527 million.
  • There have been more than 498 million recoveries and over 6.3 million deaths.
  • The highest number of cases are in the U.S. (85 million), followed by India (43.1 million), Brazil (30.7 million) and France (29.3 million).
  • Worldwide, 65.7% of the global population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This number drops to only 15.9% in low-income countries.

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:

  • Communities in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region, in the northeastern part of the state, are facing flooding due to intense rainfall following the spring snowmelt. On May 17, the St. Louis County Board declared a local state of emergency. Areas along the Cloquet River, north of Duluth, are also flooding. The flooding is caused by snowmelt, heavy rain and overflow runoff from the Island Lake Dam.
  • The derecho that hit the Midwest on May 12 was among the most significant wind-producing events for the region. At least three people were killed, and significant damage was reported. Some farmers find it difficult to procure new pivots and other essential machinery.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

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.

The DRC remains one of the most complex humanitarian crises in the world. The crisis is characterized by five primary humanitarian impacts: population movements, food insecurity, acute malnutrition, epidemics and protection issues. In 2022, 27 million people will need humanitarian assistance, 7.4 million more than the previous year.

Needs are concentrated in the provinces in the east and the Kasai region. Conflict and violence led to 2.7 million internal displacements in these areas in 2021. The population groups most at-risk include displaced persons, children, people at-risk of gender-based violence, pregnant women and nursing mothers and people with disabilities.

Given recent attacks on sites for internally displaced persons (IPDs), insecurity remains a primary concern. On May 9, at least 15 people were killed in the IDP site of Lodda in Djugu. Since the beginning of 2022, more than 500 civilians have been killed.

At the end of April, the DRC concluded the first round of peace talks with representatives of several armed groups operating in the country’s east. However, few observers believe the fighting will stop. Neighboring Uganda already hosts over 1.5 million refugees, the largest refugee population on the African continent and is bracing for more.

What We’re Reading

  • It’s Not a Border Crisis. It’s a Climate Crisis. – POLITICO: “There was a time when rural Guatemalans never left home. But back-to-back hurricanes, failed crops and extreme poverty are driving them to make the dangerous trek north to the U.S. border.”
  • ‘Huge spike’ in global conflict caused record number of displacements in 2021 – The Guardian: According to a newly released report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the number of people fleeing violence that were internally displaced in 2021 increased by 4.6 million compared to 2020.
  • As Climate Fears Mount, Some in U.S. Are Deciding to Relocate – Yale Environment 360: A small but growing number of Americans are choosing to move to areas seen as safe havens from climate change. This phenomenon is expected to intensify in the coming decades.
  • Drought and soaring food prices from Ukraine war leave millions in Africa starving – NPR: “More than 23 million people are experiencing extreme hunger in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, according to a new report by Oxfam and Save the Children.” The report’s summary says, “Starvation is a political failure.”
  • Biden warns of ‘another tough hurricane season’ this year – ABC News: Ahead of what experts predict will be a busier than average hurricane season, the U.S. President urged Americans to “pay attention to hurricane warnings and follow the guidance of your local authorities.”
  • 1 in 6 Americans live in areas with significant wildfire risk – The Washington Post: A model built by the First Street Foundation maps wildfire exposure across the U.S. The Washington Post’s analysis of the data found that wildfire danger disproportionally affects communities of color.

These glam shots of pups needing a home are beautiful, and I’m inspired by the photographer who volunteered her skills to drum up interest in adoption.