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

NYS Thruway Authority crews work to clear the roads in the Buffalo area on Nov. 19, 2022. (Source: NYS Thruway Authority 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 Nov. 21, 2022.

A message of condolence and support from CDP

The CDP staff and board send our condolences to the victims of the mass shooting that occurred over the weekend at Club Q in Colorado Springs. We are also thinking about their loved ones, all who were injured and traumatized by this senseless violence, and the entire LGBTQIA+ community. CDP’s President and CEO sent a message to staff Sunday morning, recognizing that the shooting was likely grounded in hatred, fear and discrimination. She said: “Homophobia, white supremacy and hate crimes must never have a place in our society. We must work together to build a world in which everyone can conduct their daily lives without fear of being targeted for their identity.”

While mass shootings are outside of our usual focus area as a disaster-focused organization, we have a Mass Shootings Issue Insight to help funders understand the best ways to respond.

New or Emerging Disasters

Earthquake – Indonesia: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck West Java at 1:21 p.m. local time (1:21 a.m. ET) on Nov. 21. The quake was in the Cianjur region at a depth of 6.2 miles, about 47 miles southeast of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. As of 11 a.m. CT, Monday, Nov. 21, local officials have reported at least 162 people were killed and around 700 injured. National Disaster Mitigation Agency Chief Suharyanto said hundreds of homes were damaged, including a boarding school, a hospital and several government buildings. The number of fatalities is expected to increase. The affected area is densely populated and prone to landslides. Over 2,200 homes have been damaged, with more than 5,300 people displaced.

Snow Storm – New York: A record snowstorm in western New York state over the weekend brought more than six feet of snow in some places, closing roads, triggering driving bans and canceling flights. Winter weather alerts were in effect for more than 8 million people across six Great Lakes states. The snowstorm is blamed for at least two fatalities after two people suffered cardiac events while clearing snow in Erie County. Orchard Park, located 11 miles southeast of downtown Buffalo, measured an astonishing 80 inches of snow accumulation. In an example of preparedness, 300 plows and 5,700 power crews were deployed or placed on standby. On Nov. 19, 70 members of the National Guard were deployed to help with snow removal. On Nov. 20, President Biden approved an emergency declaration for New York due to conditions resulting from the snowstorm. The emergency declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief in 11 counties.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Flooding – Australia: Relentless rainfall and major flooding continue to hit flood-weary residents in New South Wales. Last week, one woman died in the 750-person town of Eugowra, with residents there facing months of recovery. Aerial images capture the extent of the region’s flooding. Most of the town of Forbes has been evacuated for the third time in as many weeks. Condobolin, another inland NSW town on the Lachlan River, is experiencing its worst flood on record. Two communities – Moulamein and parts of Deniliquin – are facing escorted evacuations on Tuesday, Nov. 22 and Wednesday, Nov. 23 as authorities fear they may be trapped for weeks if they do not leave.

In what may be the most significant flood rescue exercise in NSW history, Australian defense personnel was joined by Singapore flood rescue specialists and a New Zealand team. For many people in inland NSW affected by the disaster, the flooding was unexpected. The disaster highlights knowledge gaps, and that homes built on floodplains once thought safe may not be anymore. Heatwaves are another hazard Australia encounters, and the government has announced that “bushfire-style emergency warnings” will now be issued for heatwaves across Australia.

Water Crisis – Mississippi: Failures to upgrade Jackson’s aging infrastructure over the years have meant that residents of the majority-Black city have suffered service disruptions, recurring boil-water advisories, and concerns over contaminants like lead and E. coli bacteria. Mississippi extended the state of emergency in the city to Nov. 22, enabling the state’s Health Department and Emergency Management Agency to oversee repairs at the water treatment plant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is prepared to propose a long-term presence in Jackson to help fix the decades-long problems with its drinking water.

For more, see our Jackson, Mississippi Water Crisis disaster profile.

In addition to the disasters listed above, we are actively monitoring 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 disaster-related news the ERF team is monitoring:

  • Many Montanans affected by June’s devastating flooding are struggling with housing as winter nears. FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration have provided millions of dollars in assistance to residents but navigating the application process can be challenging. Another hurdle is the lack of affordable housing options in Montana.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Mali

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 August 2022, France concluded its almost decade-long mission against jihadists in the country. Mali’s relations with the French have worsened since the Malian military took power in an August 2020 coup.

Thousands of other international troops are withdrawing from the country amid increasing violence, growing Russian influence and a humanitarian crisis. On Nov. 16, Germany said it would end its participation in Mali’s United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission.

According to Human Rights Watch, since early 2022, Islamist armed groups aligned with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara have attacked dozens of villages and massacred civilians in Mali’s northeast regions of Ménaka and Gao. The surge in violence coincides with France’s withdrawal in August.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the suffering in Mali is rooted in conflict and the climate crisis. Mali lost more than 220,000 acres (90,000 hectares) of crop yield in 2021 due to drought, impacting the livelihood of more than 3 million people.

Additionally, more than 72,000 people have been affected by flooding in 2022. The UN Children’s Fund reports acute malnutrition has increased slightly this year compared to last, with the Gao region reporting critical levels. As of Nov. 18, donors had funded only 33.6% of Mali’s 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan.

What We’re Reading

  • In storm-hit Puerto Rico, local communities fill US disaster response gaps – The New Humanitarian: Around Puerto Rico, community networks stepped in to respond to needs after Hurricane Fiona, often before any government action. According to some local leaders, the U.S. government’s struggles to implement an effective and timely emergency plan since Hurricane Maria meant “people end up fending for themselves.”
  • In crises, officials tweet crucial info. What if Twitter dies? – The Washington Post: The social media platform is popular among governments, emergency managers and fire departments as it is a simple way to amplify a message. While officials say they are confident in their ability to spread messages and warnings without Twitter, the recent turbulence at the company raised questions about whether sufficient contingencies are in place should there be a sudden outage.
  • 9 in 10 US counties have experienced a climate disaster in the last decade, report finds – Grist: “These climate-fueled events have caused more than $740 billion in damages, according to a new report from the climate adaptation group Rebuild by Design. The report suggests that flood damages alone could cost the U.S. another $72 billion over the next 10 years.”
  • An African civil society perspective on localizing international funding – Alliance: Rose Maruru, founder of the Dakar-based EPIC-Africa, says, “Effective infrastructure is central to effective localization. Ensuring the success of this shift in resources has the potential to make good on something African CSOs have long been voicing: money must follow good ideas that are grounded in Africans’ lived reality and local contexts.”
  • Ethiopia: Tigray starts to receive desperately needed aid – Deutsche Welle: Aid deliveries arrived in the region on Nov. 15, the first since a truce fell apart in August. A deal reached between officials from Tigrayan forces and Ethiopia’s government agreed to give “unhindered humanitarian access” to Tigray.
  • Giving Big: The Impact of Large, Unrestricted Gifts on Nonprofits – The Center for Effective Philanthropy: CEP is studying MacKenzie Scott’s giving approach in a three-year effort. The first report on findings has been released and says 93% of respondents reported that the grants they received from Scott allowed their organizations to significantly or moderately contribute to advancing racial equity.

A fireball meteor soared over Ontario, Canada, on Nov. 19. This was only the sixth object to have been detected in space before striking Earth since 2008. Fortunately, the object was estimated to be about three feet in size, minimizing the possibility of damage.