What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, September 19

Clean up in San Juan, Puerto Rico following Hurricane Fiona. (Photo credit: Miguel Romero 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 Sept. 19, 2022.

New or Emerging Disasters

Hurricane Fiona – Caribbean: Hurricane Fiona made landfall as a Category 1 storm at 3:20 p.m. ET on Sept. 18, near Punta Tocon on the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico. Hundreds of people were evacuated or rescued as floodwaters rose swiftly. The hurricane could bring up to 30 inches of rainfall to the island.

The entire island of Puerto Rico was without power on Sept. 18. A small amount of power was restored to some parts of the San Juan metropolitan area on Sept. 19, including the main hospital campus and the big island’s largest airport, but more than 1.3 million customers remained without power. On Sept. 18, President Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico.

Fiona arrived just days before the fifth anniversary of one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history, Hurricane Maria. Billions were set aside for reconstruction following Maria, but a slow recovery means Puerto Rico remains at risk of natural hazards.

On Sept. 19, Hurricane Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic, with up to 15 inches of rainfall expected there. One death from Fiona has been reported in the French Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe. France will recognize a state of disaster for Guadeloupe, President Emmanuel Macron said on Sept. 18.

For the latest information about Hurricane Fiona, see our 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season disaster profile.

We’re hosting a webinar on Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. ET to explore the impact of the hurricane and how funders can help affected communities. Learn more and register.

Storm – Alaska: Former Typhoon Merbok became one of the most intense storms to affect Alaska in recent history, causing significant flooding across western parts of the state. Reports of the damage came from across Alaska, including a report of at least three homes being moved from their foundations in Hooper Bay, according to Tribal Chief Edgar Tall. Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration on Sept. 17, activating the State Emergency Operations Plan. Fuel tanks, which provide critical fuel for generators and to heat buildings, have been damaged along with homes. Providing relief to affected communities and supporting recovery will be challenging, given their remoteness.

Typhoon Nanmadol – Japan: Typhoon Nanmadol made landfall in southwestern Japan on Sept. 18, with authorities urging millions of people to take shelter. The storm brought gusts of up to almost 150 miles per hour. Typhoon Nanmadol, one of the worst typhoons the country has seen, left nearly 350,000 homes without power and killed at least two people. A level-five alert, the highest on Japan’s disaster warning scale, was issued for more than 500,000 people in the Kagoshima, Miyazaki, Oita, Kumamoto and Yamaguchi areas.

Earthquake – Taiwan: According to the U.S. Geological Society, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck southeast of Lugu, Taiwan, on Sept. 18. The quake killed one person, left thousands without power and caused significant infrastructure damage. There were several tremors in recent days, including a 5.6 magnitude earthquake on Sept. 19, that were felt across Taiwan.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Multidimensional crisis – Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is experiencing an economic crisis and increased poverty levels because of persistent fiscal and current account deficit, mounting debt and poor governance. As foreign reserves hit record lows earlier this year, inflation soared to become Asia’s highest, which increased costs, joblessness and hunger. Women have been particularly affected by the crisis. Approximately 6.2 million people are food insecure.

Storm – U.S. Southwest: Several days after Hurricane Kay made landfall along the Mexican coast, the storm’s remnants caused flooding and dangerous winds in the southwest, a strange regional meteorological phenomenon. Flood watches covered most of Nevada and Arizona, including Phoenix and Las Vegas. In Southern California, heavy rains hit San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties particularly hard. In Nevada, thunderstorms brought torrents of water across Clark County, home to Las Vegas.

Monkeypox – Global: As of Sept. 16, 2022, there are 61,282 cases in 103 countries. The highest number of cases have been found in the U.S. (23,116), followed by Spain (6,947), Brazil (6,448), France (3,898) and Germany (3,556). A recent Centers for Disease and Control assessment says the epidemic’s growth rate is slowing, which is good news but understanding why is a work in progress.

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 news the ERF team is monitoring:

  • In western Nebraska, the Smokey Fire is estimated at 3,738 acres and was 28% contained on Sept. 15. The fire started in Banner County, and no injuries were reported nor homes damaged.
  • Increasingly, extreme heat and storms put American roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure under stress. The consequences of inadequate maintenance are compounded by climate change, accelerating infrastructure failure.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Cameroon

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.

Nine out of 10 of Cameroon’s regions continue to be affected by three complex, protracted humanitarian crises caused by continuous violence in the Lake Chad basin, insecurity in the North-West and South-West regions, and the Central African Republic (CAR) crisis. Cameroon is hosting more than 347,000 refugees from the CAR in the eastern regions.

In addition to the effects of violence, climate events and the socioeconomic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a deterioration of the well-being and living standards of people living in Cameroon. In 2022, 3.9 million people in Cameroon will require humanitarian assistance. As of Sept. 9, donors had funded only 26.7% of Cameroon’s Humanitarian Response Plan requirements.

Food price inflation remains high in Cameroon, with the rate standing at 10% in March 2022 compared to 7.6% in December 2021. Staple food prices across the country have risen by 20-35% since the Ukraine crisis started, exacerbating the food price inflation trend. Unfavorable production in conflict-affected areas is increasing food insecurity. In addition to food assistance, other needs include protection, livelihood support and resilience building.

What We’re Reading

  • Key takeaways from the latest snapshot of the humanitarian system – The New Humanitarian: The State of the Humanitarian System 2022 report examines how the humanitarian sector has evolved in the past three years. While some positive trends were identified, long-promised reforms may be coming too slowly for a sector trying to keep pace with increasing needs and costs.
  • How to Save a Forest by Burning It – The New York Times: “Prescribed burns are key to reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Scientists are using high-tech tools to ensure they can be done safely in a warming world.”
  • Mapping this summer’s extreme divide in rain and drought – The Washington Post: “Weather patterns have always brought variable rainfall across the country, but this summer featured a new era of extreme precipitation events brought on by a warming world: wet events are becoming wetter, and dry events are becoming drier.”
  • America’s summer of floods: What cities can learn from today’s climate crises to prepare for tomorrow’s – The Conversation: Floods are complex events, and preparing to deal with future floods needs to be tailored to the community. A holistic approach to planning for climate change is necessary, and Richard Rood from the University of Michigan shares lessons from case studies.

It’s a crowded field this year for National Toy Hall of Fame candidates. Many of this year’s candidates had their heyday in the 1980s. One of my favorite board games, Catan, is also on the list.