Home Emergency Management News EDM Thursday Briefing: Wildfires, Earthquakes, Drought, Zika Virus

EDM Thursday Briefing: Wildfires, Earthquakes, Drought, Zika Virus

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for April 21, 2016: Wildfires burn in the East, Water agencies in California urge regulators to ease drought restrictions, death tolls rise after earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan, and a Zika researcher points out significant dangers associated with the virus.

  1. An active wildfire has already burned at least 5,600 acres in Shenandoah National Park. The wildfire forced officials to close 12 miles of the Appalachian Trail and shut down about 14 miles of Skyline Drive, a scenic road for visitors to the park. The park is already four inches below average rainfall for the year and there is no rain in the immediate forecast.
  2. An approximate 14,000-acre wildfire is currently burning in North Carolina. The fire reportedly began on the Hyde County side of the Dare/Hyde County line, northwest of US Highway 264 and south of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Another wildfire near the North Carolina / Tennessee border has burned at least 1,000 acres but yesterday officials said it was 80 percent contained.
  3. Some California water agencies are urging regulators to ease drought restrictions, with at least one official saying that there isn't any emergency left. California received significant amounts of rain and snow this winter, which eased drought conditions for the first time in years. The state reportedly used 23.9 percent less water over the nine months ending in February, but water agencies are now saying that those conservation measures are no longer needed.
  4. The death toll in Ecuador reached 570 yesterday, according to Ecuador's Risk Management Office. There are also 155 people still missing and at least 7,000 injured from the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that hit the country on Saturday. The majority of the destruction caused by the quake occurred in three towns in coastal Ecuador: Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernale. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced a sales tax increase for one year and other financial measures to ease the cost of recovery, which he said "will take years and cost millions of dollars."
  5. In Japan, the death toll reached 48 after two powerful earthquakes hit just days apart. A magnitude-7.3 earthquake early Saturday morning followed a magnitude-6.5 earthquake last Thursday night, and aftershocks continue to shake the country. A a 5.8 magnitude earthquake reportedly struck yesterday about 60 miles off the coast of Honshu. More than 100,000 people are homeless, and shelters are overflowing with limited food and water.
  6. A Seattle Children's hospital expert said that Zika virus is causing birth defects rarely seen before. According to Dr. William Dobyns, some Zika-caused birth defects are so severe that the babies' brains shrink and their skulls collapse inside the womb. Dobyns cautioned that "we’re going to have affected kids in the U.S.," and said that couples exposed to Zika should consider postponing pregnancy until the crisis clears.
  7. A recent study by the American Lung Association revealed that 166 million Americans are at risk from air pollution. Approximately 52 percent of the total U.S. population reside in regions that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. The study listed the most polluted cities by different categories, and California cities dominated the lists.
  8. The U.S. Senate passed a bill that makes efforts to bolster the nation's defense against power grid attacks. The bill is wide-ranging energy legislation that cover many topics, with a main topic being security of the U.S. grid. Among other things, the bill gives the Department of Energy (DOE) more authority to intervene during a cyber crisis.
  9. Hundreds are feared dead after an overloaded boat sank in Mediterranean off the Libyan coast. A repurposed fishing boat en route to Italy with at least 500 Africans aboard reportedly sunk as additional passengers attempted to board from smaller boats. The incident will likely push the death toll in the Mediterranean in 2016 over 1,000.
  10. France's government is now looking to again extend the nationwide state of emergency that was first declared after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015. French leaders are seeking an extension through the end of July to cover both the Euro 2016 championship and Tour de France. The current nationwide state of emergency is the country's first since 1961 and has been a polarizing topic in France for months, as some believe it is no longer necessary.

Matt Mills Matt Mills has been involved in various aspects of online media, both on the editorial side and on the technology side, for more than 16 years. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and is currently involved in multiple projects focused on innovation journalism.