Emergency and disaster management week in review for May 16, 2016
A weekly recap of handpicked emergency and disaster management news, along with analysis and interpretation from our team of experts.
The Alberta government released an app that will give Fort McMurray residents a bird’s eye view of the burning region in the wake of a destructive wildfire that forced the evacuation of over 90,000 people. The wildfire damage surveillance app is an online mapping application that provides a high-level satellite overview of the status of the city. Monday was yet another challenging day for firefighters working to contain wildfires burning large portions of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada. About 4,000 oil sands workers evacuated Monday as the region suffered from what officials called a "significant" increase in the wildfire's growth.
The Fort McMurray fire started May 1st and has already burned more than 930 square miles of land with portions still burning out of control. According to a recent update on the fire by officials, there are a total of 17 fires burning that cover more than 877,220 acres, with 1,754 firefighters, 208 helicopters, 29 air tankers, and 412 pieces of equipment currently battling the wildfire. Authorities note that fire conditions in the province are still considered extreme, with multiple mandatory evacuation orders still in place. Entering Monday, at least 94,000 people were displaced and 2,400 homes and businesses were destroyed by the massive wildfires that began earlier this month and have yet to be contained.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a magnitude-6.7 earthquake struck Ecuador early Wednesday morning, sending residents back out into the streets. The epicenter was near Quito, close to the town of Mompiche. The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa indicated in an early tweet that there were no damages, then updated the information to note that some small damage had occurred. No tsunami warning was issued. This earthquake struck just one month after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit the nation in the same region -- their worst since 1979, killing more than 650 people, injuring more than 16,500, and causing widespread damage and destruction that is estimated at $2 billion.
Three days of torrential rains that fell on the island nation of Sri Lanka triggered massive landslides late Tuesday that inundated the villages of Siripura, Pallebage, and Elagipitya, in the central Kegalle district. At least 220 families are currently still unaccounted for according to the Red Cross, and military officials stated that the army has rescued 156 people that were trapped, and has seven shelters that are housing over 1,550 people displaced by the landslides. More than 300 officers were deployed for rescue operations following the mudslides. The death toll is rising, with over 55 dead and 130 unaccounted for, and some fear that with mud levels up to 30 feet in some places, no more survivors will be found. Rescue attempts have been complicated by unstable ground, heavy fog, and electrical outages, but additional heavy rainfalls that continue in the area have further hampered efforts and increased the threat of more landslides . The torrential rains also caused widespread flooding that forced nearly 350,000 people from their homes and resulted in 32 deaths according to official numbers.
Mount St. Helens
Exactly 36 years ago, on May 18, 1980, a magnitude-5.1 earthquake struck Washington State. The quake occurred just seconds before the explosion which began the eruption of Mount St. Helens volcano. The Mount St. Helens eruption resulted in 57 deaths, an estimated $1 billion damages, and obliterated 396 meters off the top of the peak. Before the eruption, Mount St. Helens stood at 9,677 feet; after the eruption, the peak measured 8,363 ft.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced that the state of Michigan will pay Flint's water bills in May in an effort to encourage the flushing of lead from old pipes. Flint began a flushing strategy on May 1 in which officials urged city residents to run cold water at the highest flow from both their bathtub and kitchen faucet, each for five minutes a day. The flushing exercise is expected to cost the state an estimated $1.7 million, depending on participation.