What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, September 26

Damage in Port aux Basques caused by storm surge from Hurricane Fiona. (Photo credit: Newfoundland Power 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. 26, 2022.

New or Emerging Disasters

Earthquake – Mexico: A powerful earthquake on Sept. 22 caused buildings to sway and led to the deaths of two people. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.8 magnitude earthquake was centered in the western state of Michoacan near the Pacific coast. Local officials reported damage to a building in Uruapan and some landslides on a regional highway. On Sept. 19, another 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck in the same region, leading to the death of one person.

Typhoon – Japan: Typhoon Talas hit central Japan on Sept. 24 with torrential rain and fierce winds, killing two and leaving tens of thousands of households without power. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the city of Shizuoka was hit especially hard, seeing a record 16.42 inches (417 millimeters) of precipitation since the rain started on Sept. 22. Talas made landfall just days after Typhoon Nanmadol, one of the most significant storms to hit the country in recent decades, which caused significant flooding and killed at least four people.

Typhoon – Philippines: Typhoon Noru made landfall on Sept. 25 at Burdeos town in Quezon province. It weakened as it crossed into the main Luzon region overnight. Noru, a Category 3 typhoon, is the most powerful storm to hit the country in 2022, with sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour). The storm killed at least six people, including five rescuers, forced thousands to evacuate and cut power in two provinces.

Uganda – Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak: Uganda’s Ministry of Health declared an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Outbreak on Sept. 20 in the central part of the country. The outbreak was originally traced to a 24-year-old man who died in Mubende district on Sept. 19, but cases are now traced back to August. While the World Health Organization is reporting a total of seven cases, Uganda’s Ministry of Health reported much higher numbers on Sept. 25, with two new confirmed cases and 36 cumulative (18 confirmed and 18 probable cases), two new deaths with 23 cumulative (5 confirmed deaths and 18 probable deaths) and 35 active cases. These numbers put the EVD outbreak into the top 20 of all outbreaks after only a week post-confirmation. The EVD has been identified as the Sudan strain, which has not been identified in Uganda before. The Sudan strain has no known therapeutics, and the ERVEBO vaccine does not protect against it. Researchers are working on potential vaccines.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Hurricane – Caribbean, Canada and U.S.: One week after Hurricane Fiona wreaked havoc across the Caribbean, thousands of Puerto Ricans remain without electricity and water. According to PowerOutage.us, which estimates outages based on utility data, more than 618,000 customers were without power on the morning of Sept. 26.

About 20% of customers on the island do not have water. As of Sept. 24, Puerto Rico’s Department of Health said at least 16 people had died because of Fiona, with one death classified as “directly” related to the hurricane. Fiona also hit Guadeloupe, where one man died, and the Dominican Republic, where two people were killed.

Fiona moved northward and landed in Atlantic Canada on Sept. 24 as a post-tropical cyclone. The storm affected Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec with hurricane-strength winds, rains and waves.

One woman was killed in Channel-Port Aux Basques, a town on the southern coast of Newfoundland. Thousands of people are without power, and utility companies say it could be days before power is fully restored. At least 20 homes in Channel-Port Aux Basques were damaged. Typically, hurricanes curve eastwards as they reach higher latitudes, but they can be “pulled” northwards or westwards.

CDP is also tracking the path of Hurricane Ian, which is on track to make landfall this week in Cuba and Florida.

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

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 last week. Golovin was among the worst affected areas in the Norton Sound region, with at least 22 of the town’s 64 homes damaged. In addition to home damage, critical gear that supports self-sufficiency, such as fishing boats and hunting equipment, were destroyed.

The storm hit at the end of the fishing and berry-picking season and in the middle of the moose-hunting season, leading to fears of food insecurity as winter quickly approaches. President Biden approved a federal disaster declaration on Sept. 23, making federal funding available to affected individuals in the Regional Educational Attendance Areas of Bering Strait, Kashunamiut, Lower Kuskokwim and Lower Yukon.

Monkeypox – Global: As of Sept. 23, 2022, there are 65,415 cases in 106 countries. The highest number of cases have been found in the U.S. (24,845), followed by Brazil (7,205), Spain (7,083), France (3,970) and Germany (3,597). An uncertain path to recovery is described by some men who contracted monkeypox with the virus leaving physical and psychological scars.

A quick response, including education, community-based vaccine distribution and changes in sexual behavior by men who have sex with men, is linked to the reduction in the growth of new cases. However, Black and Hispanic men have been disproportionately overrepresented in the infected population.

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.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Central African Republic (CAR)

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.

Conflict in CAR began in 2013 between the Séléka and anti-balaka armed groups, and violence continues, despite a February 2019 peace agreement between the government and non-state armed groups. The conflict has led to human rights abuses and mass displacement.

In 2022, 3.1 million people, 63% of the population, need humanitarian assistance and protection.  As of July 31, there were approximately 647,883 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in CAR, representing an overall increase of 37,618 IDPs (6.2%) compared to June 2022. With 50% of the population not eating enough, CAR has one of the highest proportions of critically food-insecure people in the world.

On July 22, torrential rains and subsequent flooding affected thousands of Central Africans. At least 10 people were killed, nearly 2,000 houses and a dozen bridges were destroyed, and thousands of latrines and wells flooded. Bangui, the capital, has been the most affected. On July 13, a new National Strategy for Disaster Risk Management was adopted to mitigate risks of disasters such as the recent flooding.

What We’re Reading

  • Four steps to help avoid future famines in Somalia – The New Humanitarian: In this opinion piece, Hodan Ali says there is a need to reform an aid system that “prioritizes short-term relief over protecting people’s livelihoods and restoring their dignity.” Ali offers four recommendations as a way forward.
  • Five Lessons from the Aftermath of Hurricane Maria for Communities Preparing for Climate Migration – Urban Institute: In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Florida became a receiving community and recovery destination for thousands of Puerto Ricans. The Urban Institute highlights five key lessons “for other municipalities to advance equity and community capacity in preparing for climate migration.”
  • Climate change likely helped cause deadly Pakistan floods, scientists find – National Public Radio: A group of international climate scientists in Pakistan, Europe and the U.S. says climate change made such heavy rainfall more likely. The scientists pointed out that millions of people live in flood-prone areas and that upgrading drainage, moving homes and reinforcing bridges and roads would help prevent future catastrophic damage.
  • The East Coast Will Not Escape Fire – The Atlantic: “With climate change, the destruction is in the details. The Northeast is now primed for more frequent droughts that will harm agriculture, intermittently reduce drinking-water supplies, and increase wildfire risk.”
  • Wildfire philanthropy: From relief to resilience – Candid: As wildfires grow due to climate change, human interference and increased exposure, philanthropic organizations are working to fill gaps and effectively distribute resources, with an eye towards resilience.

A fascinating and vital new research project aims to compile the first Oxford Dictionary of African American English. Supported in part by grants from the Mellon and Wagner foundations, the project is one of the most well-funded efforts of its kind.