What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, October 3

A Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk flies overhead while personnel scan for unaccounted people in Fort Myers Beach, Florida after Hurricane Ian on Sept. 29, 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Gabriel Wisdom)

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 Oct. 3, 2022.

New or Emerging Disasters

Hurricane Ian – U.S. and Cuba: Ian became a hurricane in the early hours of Sept. 26 and emerged into the Gulf of Mexico after passing through Cuba as a Category 3 major hurricane. Ian then made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 on Sept. 28 on the barrier island of Cayo Costa, near Fort Myers and Cape Coral.

Ian crossed Florida and slowed to a tropical storm before regaining hurricane status over the Atlantic and landing in South Carolina on Sept. 30, the first hurricane to make landfall there in nearly six years. Warm ocean waters in the Gulf of Mexico fueled Ian to become one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. in the past decade. Ian weakened to a post-tropical cyclone and dumped rain on Virginia on Oct. 1, temporarily knocking out power.

The full scope of the devastation is still unfolding, and damage assessments are ongoing. However, catastrophic storm surge, high winds and up to 20 inches of rain in some areas have flooded homes, knocked out power for thousands and damaged critical infrastructure. While the death toll continues to fluctuate, tragically, the hurricane killed at least 100 people in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba. On Sept. 29, President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for the state of Florida. This has been expanded to include Individual Assistance in 17 counties and emergency measures for the entire state.

In Cuba, Ian damaged at least 73 buildings in Havana, the capital, and forced more than 16,000 people into shelters. Cuba’s frail electricity grid had been struggling for months before the storm, and Ian caused the country’s grid to collapse completely. While power was slowly being restored, Cubans protested in the streets of Havana to demand that the government fully restore electricity.

Philanthropy Southeast is hosting a webinar with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Florida Philanthropic Network on Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. ET to help donors learn about the storm and how they can help affected communities.

For more, see our 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season disaster profile.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Hurricane Fiona – U.S. and Canada: Less than two weeks after Hurricane Fiona, a Category 1 storm, hit Puerto Rico, the island’s health department says at least 25 deaths may be connected to the storm. Fiona was the first hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 2017, when Hurricane Maria killed thousands and left many residents without power for months. As of Oct. 3, more than 125,000 customers in Puerto Rico remained without power.

President Biden approved an emergency declaration before Fiona made landfall and a major disaster declaration for individual and public assistance afterward. However, activists questioned why the major disaster declaration initially did not include all of the island’s municipalities affected by the storm. Biden will visit the U.S. territory on Oct. 3 to assess efforts there. Mutual aid networks, born out of Hurricane Maria, have stepped up to provide resources and meals.

Fiona transformed into a post-tropical storm, damaging homes and knocking out power in multiple provinces. The town of Channel-Port Aux Basques on the southern coast of Newfoundland was particularly affected, where at least 12 structures were washed into the sea.

Officials say it will take several months for Canada to restore critical infrastructure damaged by Fiona. The Honourable Bill Blair, president of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness, has approved Requests for Federal Assistance from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

For more, see our 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season disaster profile.

Typhoon – Southeast Asia: Typhoon Noru made landfall on Sept. 25 as a Category 3 storm at Burdeos town in the Philippine province of Quezon before hitting south of the city of Da Nang in Vietnam on Sept. 27. Vietnam imposed a curfew and evacuated more than 800,000 people before Noru’s landfall. Noru left at least eight dead in the Philippines and damaged homes, and caused electricity outages in Vietnam. Experts say rapidly developing typhoons will become more common as the climate crisis fuels extreme weather events. It will also become harder to predict which storms will intensify and where they will track.

Polio – New York: The state’s health department is battling three simultaneous disease outbreaks: COVID-19, monkeypox and polio. This summer, the department registered a positive polio case in a person living in Rockland County. Monkeypox cases have leveled off in the state, but concerns about polio are growing. The disease used to kill and disable thousands of people a year in the U.S. until polio vaccines were discovered. However, delayed childhood vaccination caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with a rising tide of government mistrust and vaccine misinformation, has caused the nation’s most sustained transmission of polio since 1979.

Monkeypox – Global: As of Sept. 30, 2022, there are 68,428 cases in 106 countries. The highest number of cases have been found in the U.S. (25,850), followed by Brazil (7,687), Spain (7,149), France (3,999) and the United Kingdom (3,635).

There is no scientifically conclusive data available to prove the effectiveness of the Jynneos vaccine against monkeypox. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at-risk people who received a single dose of the monkeypox vaccine appeared to be significantly less likely to get sick. Yet, inequities persist in vaccine distribution. In Michigan, 60% of people infected with the virus are Black, yet doses of the Jynneos vaccine have disproportionately gone to white Michiganders.

For more, see our Monkeypox Global Outbreak 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 disasters and related news the ERF team is monitoring:

  • Minnesota has authorized emergency assistance for 13 counties due to damage caused by severe thunderstorms in two weather events that occurred in June and July.
  • Local governments in St. Louis county, Missouri, are seeking at least $16 million in federal funding to buy out more than 60 homes and apartments damaged by this summer’s flooding.
  • The historic floods that swept through south-central Montana and the Yellowstone area in June illuminated the area’s growing inequality. In Fromberg, a town of about 400, the floods damaged or destroyed at least 95 residences. Most of them were mobile homes.
  • On Sept. 20, President Biden signed a disaster declaration designating the Muscogee Nation to serve as the recipient of FEMA public assistance due to severe weather events between May 2-8. With this declaration, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation will be the first tribal government to serve as the recipient that local communities will submit for FEMA Public Assistance funds.

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.

Chad is enduring a prolonged humanitarian crisis due to growing insecurity in the country and region and socioeconomic, health and climate-related challenges in the context of political transition.

Through August 2022, Chad endured the heaviest rainfall and floods in 30 years, leaving parts of the capital, N’Djamena, submerged under water and forcing thousands to flee their homes. Floods are frequent in the region during the rainy season, which typically lasts from May to October. However, this year the rains came in greater quantity, immediately flooding ponds and drainage systems.

The floods affected at least 440,000 people and damaged more than 108,000 acres (44,000 hectares) of farmland. The agricultural sector employs about 76% of Chad’s labor force, and flooding in affected areas could impact the next harvest season. Climate predictions show a significant increase in surface temperatures relative to the 1981-2010 period. Changes will particularly affect the agricultural sector.

Armed attacks and kidnappings continue. In Lac Province in western Chad, attacks in July and August displaced more than 3,800 people. For many of these people, this was a repeat displacement. Affected people have significant needs for food, shelter, non-food items and water. As of Sept. 30, donors had funded only 37% of Chad’s 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan.

What We’re Reading

  • Somalia’s children face death by starvation as famine takes hold – ABC News: A record drought, soaring food prices and falling donor funding have left millions of people starving. According to a recent Save the Children report, more than half of Somalia’s children face acute malnutrition.
  • The best ‘glimmers of hope’ against climate change in Somalia – Devex: Somalia is the second most climate-vulnerable country in the world. Despite challenges due to ongoing state building and armed insurgency, investments in resilience are needed. A coordinated approach and long-term funding with cross-sector partnerships can bear fruit.
  • Malaria and diseases spreading fast in flood-hit Pakistan – Reuters: On Sept. 21, authorities said 324 people had died from malaria and other diseases spreading through Pakistan’s flood-affected areas. Despite an outpouring of support, further assistance is needed, particularly for displaced families.
  • U.S. Civil Rights Commission sees inequities in FEMA disaster response – The Washington Post: A report from the independent federal commission found the U.S. government’s emergency response to Hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017 may not have equitably served the most vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities, the less affluent and non-native English speakers.
  • Wildfire Smoke Is Erasing Progress on Clean Air – The New York Times: According to research published by Stanford University, “Smoke from wildfires has worsened over the past decade, potentially reversing decades of improvements in Western air quality made under the Clean Air Act.”
  • Switzerland records worst melt rate of its glaciers – Aljazeera: Switzerland lost 6% of its remaining glacier volume this year or nearly double the previous record of 2003. The heavy losses resulted from low winter snowfall combined with back-to-back heat waves.

The owner of a goat farm on Prince Edward Island stumbled on a new business idea when one of their goats jumped on a paddleboard and refused to get off.