Home Emergency Management News EDM Wednesday Briefing: Wildfire in Alberta, UNDP Report, Airports & Zika, Vietnam

EDM Wednesday Briefing: Wildfire in Alberta, UNDP Report, Airports & Zika, Vietnam

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for May 4, 2016: Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada is evacuated due to a wildfire, the UNDP warns of economic losses from rising temperatures due to climate change, U.S. airports begin an informal watch and informational campaign to help spread Zika virus awareness, and Vietnamese citizens hold a rare protest over environmental issues.

  1.  Over 80,000 residents in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada were issued a mandatory evacuation order on Tuesday evening due to a wildfire burning out of control. Residents of the town were given the order to evacuate after fire behavior became erratic due to strong winds, forcing those battling the fire - around 100 fire fighters at the time - to pull back for safety reasons. Officials indicated that the fire is still burning out of control and has consumed homes and businesses in Fort McMurray, although no deaths or injuries have been reported. It is the largest fire evacuation in the history of Alberta, and the fire shows no signs of stopping as strong winds fuel its erratic behavior.
  2. Roads were clogged with fleeing residents, slowing the evacuation, and many vehicles had to pull off the road as they ran out of gas or engines struggled due to the smoke. As residents fled the city, the fire jumped roadways and was burning trees just 20 meters from Highway 63. The local hospital, Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, began its evacuation just after 5:00 pm as buses moved patients to the north and out of danger. The the evacuation was completed just after 6:30 pm. Fort McMurray is the location of the Athabasca Oil Sands, the world's single largest oil deposit, which contains an estimated 174 trillium barrels of bitumen used to produce synthetic crude oil. The area provides the U.S. with 2 million barrels of oil per day.
  3. A report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) strongly advised that rising temperatures due to climate change could result in labor losses of $2 trillion by the year 2030. Increased temperatures over the last 15 years have already created a 1-3 percent reduction in daylight labor hours in the nations of Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Burkina Faso. A key finding from the report was that the low-skill, low-income, heavy labor, agricultural and manufacturing jobs are the positions most likely to be impacted by higher temperatures and extended heatwaves. Increasingly higher temperatures are also likely to contribute to the migration of agricultural and other laborers, due to the degradation of environmental living conditions, further impacting the economies of at risk nations.
  4. A new study shows that the world's oceans are being severely depleted of dissolved oxygen due to rising sea temperatures. Scientists predict that the effects will be quite noticeable by 2030 to 2040 if strong enough actions are not taken against global warming/climate change. Findings from the study revealed climate-related dissolved oxygen losses already evident in the southern portions of the Indian Ocean, along with the eastern tropical region of the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
  5. As the Zika virus spreads, concern over citizens traveling to Brazil for the Olympics, and other countries where the disease can be contracted, has led to an informal watch being implemented in airports across the United States. The Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport held a press conference in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Health in April to make sure citizens were aware of the Zika virus threat.  To help spread awareness, the airport has posted informational signs throughout the airport, including in the U. S. Customs area. These signs are meant to provide travelers with tips and measures to protect and prevent individuals from contracting Zika.
  6. President Obama is set to visit Flint, MI where an ongoing water contamination problem has resulted in lead poisoning in many area children. For many residents in Flint, the president's visit is long overdue, and even "too late" according to one individual, who also said that many residents feel they have been abandoned by politicians and left to  deal with the situation on their own.
  7. A report released on Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicates that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority did not learn from a series of accidents that have plagued the system in recent years.  The report cited aging infrastructure, local and federal oversight that was inadequate, and a flawed safety response that culminated in one death and 91 injuries when smoke filled a tunnel near the L'Enfant plaza station in January of 2015.
  8. In Vietnam, in a rare public demonstration, protestors held signs that said "We Want to Live" and "Formosa Get Out" after massive numbers of fish, clams, and some whales began washing onshore in April.  Many believe the fish-kill is a result of toxic dumping directly into the ocean in the nation's unrelenting pursuit of industrial growth.  Much of the focus for the toxic ocean dumping has centered around a steel plant, one that is owned by Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group.  Fish began washing ashore in early April in north-central Vietnam, along a 125-mile stretch of beach.  Action by authorities has been sluggish, and concerns over the nation failing to comply with international environmental regulations is seen as threatening future foreign investments in the country, foreign investments that have pulled this nation to "middle income" status according to standards set by the World Bank.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.