What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, November 6

Orange County Fire Authority crews responding to the Highland Fire in Riverside County, Nov. 1, 2023. (Credit: Orange County Fire Authority via X)

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 Nov. 6, 2023.

New or Emerging Disasters

Earthquake – Nepal: The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck the province of Karnali in western Nepal on Nov. 3. The USGS gave a preliminary magnitude of 5.6.

Jajarkot District was among the areas worst affected by the earthquake, combined with high vulnerability, leaving at least 105 people dead there and significant damage. Officials said that another 52 were killed in the neighboring Rukum district. Many survivors have been forced to sleep outside, and government aid has been slow to reach the remote area.

According to Amod Mani Dixit, the director of the National Society for Earthquake Technology, a million homes in Nepal’s east were built or retrofitted to meet the regulations introduced after Nepal’s 2015 earthquake that killed almost 9,000. Despite this progress and broad awareness of the country’s seismicity, enforcing building codes across the country has been challenging.

The New York Times quoted Mr. Dixit as saying, “What kills is the poor building. And we have got a prevalence of bad buildings.”

Flooding – Horn of Africa: The Horn of Africa’s rainy season typically runs from October to December and is being amplified this year by El Niño. Heavy rainfall since Nov. 2 has affected eastern Kenya, where floods and overflowing rivers have resulted in casualties and significant damage. At least 15 people have died in Kenya, where roads have been cut off, livestock killed, and dozens of houses flooded.

In Somalia, at least 14 people have died due to flooding triggered by heavy rains and in Luuq district, 2,400 people are stuck in their own homes surrounded by water. The Somali states of Jubbaland, Hirshabelle and South West are the most affected, and the government has declared an emergency in these areas.

Tropical Storm – Central America: Tropical Storm Pilar remained off the western coast of several Central American countries but brought significant rainfall and damaging winds to several countries. According to civil protection authorities, three people have died due to the storm in El Salvador and one in neighboring Honduras. In Guatemala, officials said three communities in the capital were flooded, affecting about 450 people.

In their last advisory on Nov. 5, the National Hurricane Center said the post-tropical cyclone was moving toward the west-northwest at nearly eight miles per hour with no hazards affecting land. Hurricane season in the eastern Pacific began on May 15, two weeks before the Atlantic season started. Both seasons run until Nov. 30.

Storm – Europe: After dumping rain across Western Europe, Storm Ciarán brought heavy winds and rain to central Italy, leading to devastating flooding. Livorno, Marina di Pisa and towns around Florence were among the worst affected areas.

In Montemurlo, officials said on Nov. 3 that 7.8 inches (200 millimeters) of rain had fallen since the afternoon of Nov. 2, and the Bisenzio river burst its banks in two places. As of Nov. 3, Ciarán had left at least six people dead in Italy, with the storm’s death toll rising to 14 across Europe. Damage estimates in Italy alone are already in the billions of euros.

The storm moved eastward, with roads flooded in Albania and waves pounding the Adriatic shores of the Balkans.

Wildfire – California: The Highland Fire in Riverside County started on Oct. 30 and forced at least 4,000 people to evacuate. Crews had difficulty fighting the fire due to conditions and challenging terrain. The fire was fueled by unpredictable Santa Ana winds, which are dry and warm (often hot) winds that blow out of the desert.

On Nov. 4, officials eased evacuations and reopened a highway that had been closed for days. According to CAL FIRE, the Highland Fire had burned 2,487 acres and was 80% contained as of Nov. 4. Two injuries have been reported, and the fire damaged or destroyed 20 structures.

Wildfire – Australia: Firefighters have been battling more than 150 bushfires across Queensland and New South Wales in the past two weeks, with authorities blaming lightning strikes and difficult weather conditions.

As of Oct. 31, the bushfires killed two people and destroyed dozens of homes across northern Queensland state. Firefighters from Victoria and New Zealand were lending a hand, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said support from the federal government would be available. Three people were killed when their plane crashed while engaged in fire surveillance in remote northwest Queensland.

In late October, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said below-average rainfall was forecast across much of western, southern and northeast Australia just weeks after declaring the driest September on record.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Complex Humanitarian Emergency – Israel and Gaza: As hostilities entered the 30th day on Nov. 5, ongoing fighting between the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups was reported in northwest and south Gaza City.

On Nov. 5, a limited number of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies crossed from Egypt into Gaza. Since Oct. 21, at least 451 trucks have entered Gaza. Gaza has remained under a total electricity blackout since Oct. 11, following Israel’s end of its power and fuel supply. About 1.5 million people in Gaza are internally displaced.

On Nov. 5, the Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee released a statement, which read in part, “We renew our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians held hostage. … We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now.”

Wildfire – Hawaii: Nearly three months have passed since a wildfire in Lahaina on Maui engulfed the town and became the country’s most deadly wildfire since 1918. The Lahaina wildfire death toll has increased from 98 to 99 after officials found remains that did not match previously identified individuals. Four people remain unaccounted for.

West Maui’s mental health crisis is dire, according to local psychologists and state health officials. In a report from Nov. 5, NBC News said, “The wildfires reopened long-standing wounds from Hawaii’s colonial past while simultaneously destroying a resource residents are deeply connected to: the land.”

Funder Hui is hosting weekly Maui Emergency Briefing calls. The Sept. 29 call was entitled “Hānai I Ka Punawai Ola: Nurturing Resilience and Wellbeing Through Transformative Healing Practices,” and a recording can be found here. Funder Hui also maintains a Google doc with information on all Maui Emergency Briefing calls.

For more, see our 2023 North American Wildfires 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.

This is one of the latest disasters and related news the ERF team is monitoring:

  • A disaster designation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for three Oklahoma counties will allow the Farm Service Agency to extend emergency credit to producers recovering from drought through emergency loans.
  • President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Kansas in areas affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding from July 14-21, 2023.
  • Six months after the March 31 tornadoes came through Arkansas, the city of Little Rock’s Emergency Management is looking at areas of improvement in handling the next disaster.

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. Recurring climatic shocks and conflict are key drivers of humanitarian needs. Despite the positive impact of the 2023 Gu rains, which bring rainfall to the southwestern part of Somalia, and sustained humanitarian assistance, the levels of acute food insecurity are projected to remain high.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification says that between October and December, 4.3 million people are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.

According to Save the Children, “About two in five children under the age of five in Somalia are likely to suffer from acute malnutrition by July 2024, despite initial hopes that rainfall would bring more relief.”

In the World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN) November 2023 to April 2024 Outlook, the UN agencies say Ethiopia and Somalia are among eight countries identified as acute food insecurity “hotspots of very high concern.”

While rainfall earlier in 2023 was a welcome reprieve from a devastating years-long drought, the possibility of too much rain could result in flooding in the last quarter of this year. Forecasts for the October to December 2023 Deyr rainy season in Somalia is a “once-in-a hundred-years flood event” related to the El Niño weather phenomenon.

As of Nov. 3, donors had funded only 39.6% of the $2.6 billion requested in Somalia’s 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan.

Join us this Thursday, Nov. 9

Webinar: Indigenous land management: Decreasing disasters and increasing resilience

What We’re Reading

  • Long road ahead for Afghan earthquake survivors, especially women – The New Humanitarian: “But despite this outpouring of support, relief efforts still suffer from major challenges, especially for vulnerable groups such as women and children, and, with winter coming, an urgent rebuilding programme is needed to provide survivors with proper shelter.”
  • Years into a climate disaster, these people are eating the unthinkable – The Washington Post: “Climate disasters are often perceived as finite events — with an emergency and a recovery, a beginning and an end. But as these disasters grow in magnitude and frequency, striking poor countries dependent on a stretched humanitarian system, some are no longer just passing crises, but permanent states of being.”
  • How can we do better? Improving climate and disaster resilience in complex settings – The World Bank: The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery conducted a portfolio review of the World Bank’s disaster risk management interventions in fragile, conflict and violent settings. Read three findings and implementation insights.
  • America’s Disaster Recovery System is a Disaster – The New York Times: Dr. Samantha Montano, the author of “Disasterology: Dispatches From the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis,” writes, “The help Americans receive after disasters isn’t just inadequate, it’s complicated to navigate and painfully slow to arrive.”
  • Paradise, California, was destroyed by fire. Here’s what it looks like 5 years later – Fast Company: “The Camp Fire killed 85 people and devastated the city. Now, it’s the fastest-growing community in California.”
  • A California town was leveled by a wildfire. Three years on, it feels the world has forgotten – The Guardian: Three years on from a devastating fire that killed 16, the hamlet of Berry Creek, a community two hours north of Sacramento, has struggled to recover. Residents were hopeful they would see the same outpouring of support and aid Paradise received after it burned down, but resources for recovery have been limited.
  • Natural disasters vs. natural hazards: Risk-mitigation public campaigns might need rewording – Phys.org: In a recently published study in Social Psychological Bulletin, New Zealand researchers say, “Perhaps most importantly, we found that intentions to prepare for natural hazards predicted actual behavior, but intentions to prepare for natural disasters didn’t.”

Bobi, a 31-year-old dog in Portugal ranked as the world’s oldest dog, has died. The dog’s owner said Bobi’s secret to a long life was good food, fresh air and lots of love.