EDM Friday Briefing: Oregon Standoff Ends, Tensions Rise in North Korea, Zika Vaccine At Least 18 Months Out
Emergency and disaster management briefing for February 12, 2016: The Oregon standoff at a wildlife refuge ends after more than 40 days, North Korea reacts unfavorably to sanctions imposed by South Korea, calling them 'a declaration of war,' and the CDC get closer to a clear link between Zika virus and microcephaly.
- The final four militants occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon surrendered to authorities, ending the standoff after 41 days. Three of the four remaining occupiers surrendered yesterday morning, but the final occupier, David Fry, didn't surrender until hours later. Police arrested Fry without incident, ending the standoff.
- On Wednesday, South Korea suspended operations at an industrial park co-operated by North Korea in response to North Korea's recent rocket launch. North Korea responded by calling South Korea's move out of the co-operated industrial zone a 'declaration of war' in what is becoming an increasingly tense situation. North Korea also responded by stating that all South Korean nationals will be deported from the area and all assets of companies operating there will be frozen.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came one step closer to linking Zika virus and microcephaly -- a theory predicted for quite some time. Doctors identified the Zika virus in the tissue of two Brazilian babies who died from microcephaly in what is the strongest evidence to date of a link between the two. The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that a Zika vaccine is at least 18 months out at this point.
- According to the CDC, while Zika virus is a huge threat to pregnant women (and their fetuses), the virus is not a major threat to the rest of the population. Approximately eight out of 10 people who contract the virus will show no symptoms, and the virus remains in infected people's blood for about a week. Earlier this week, the White House announced that is it asking for $1.8 billion to combat Zika virus both within the U.S. and around the world.
- President Barack Obama unveiled his Cybersecurity National Action Plan this week, which aims to take "bold actions to protect Americans in today’s digital world." The plan will work to build a more strategic emphasis on digital security needs and calls for an increase in federal cyber security spending to more than $19 billion, which amounts to about a 35 percent rise over current spending.
- World powers, including both Russia and the U.S., agreed yesterday on a cessation of hostilities in Syria. The agreement calls for an end of hostilities and immediate humanitarian access to areas most in need. Secretary of State John Kerry said that everyone agreed on the urgency of humanitarian access and expressed hope that the "words on paper" be translated into "actions on the ground." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov termed the agreement a first step toward a full cease-fire.
- President Obama declared 25 counties in Texas federal disaster areas this week. The declaration will help Texas communities impacted by the December 2015 blizzards and tornadoes recover from the damage caused by the severe storms. At least 11 people died after a series of tornadoes hit the Dallas region around Christmas, and other parts of the state were hit hard by severe storms, as well.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) agreed to expand the federal disaster declaration in Missouri that is in effect due to flooding in December and January that resulted in at least 16 deaths and an estimated $41 million in damages in the state. With the expansion, assistance is now available in 37 counties and the city of St. Louis.
- FEMA also granted the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) an extension to complete its damage assessment from the floods that impacted both Illinois and Missouri in December and January. Illinois originally had until today to complete its damage assessments, but FEMA extended that deadline two weeks. IEMA said that it needed more time for flood waters to subside in order to come to an accurate assessment.
- Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) said yesterday that it successfully temporarily controlled the flow of natural gas from the leaking facility in Porter Ranch, CA. The underground leak has been occurring since at least October 2015. The utility company called the leak stoppage a "positive development" but also said that more work needs to be done in order to permanently seal the leak. Thousands of displaced residents are awaiting word of when they will be able to move home.