2017, the year of hurricanes, wildfires and floods

Star Online Report

Published: January 4, 2018

2017 has been the year of Climate Change impacts and its horrors making to the news on a daily basis. From hurricanes to wildfires, the previous year was a constant reminder that the planet is in the eye of the great climate change storm.

Among the disasters, South Asia experienced some of the worst flooding in recent years.

Let’s take a look at the list below of the natural disasters that spread widespread devastation around the world in order to further throw light on the need for change and to take the climate seriously this year.


Avalanche in Pakistan and Afghanistan border

An internally displaced Afghan girl stands at the door of her shelter during a snowfall in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017. Photo: Reuters

The 2017 Afghanistan avalanches were a series that struck villages on the Afghanistan–Pakistan border between February 4 and 6, 2017. Heavy snows fueled the avalanches, which tumbled onto some poorly-constructed clay and mud homes. The Guardian put the death toll from this outbreak at more than 135.


Landslide in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Firemen and locals recover the body of a woman killed inside her home in Jubo Unnayan area of Rangamati town yesterday. The mudslide on Monday night had buried the entire ground floor of the two-storey house. Star file photo

Three hilly districts of Bangladesh, Rangamati, Chittagong and Bandarban were hit by a series of landslides and floods triggered by heavy monsoon rain on June 12. Around 150 lives including those of several officers and members of the army were lost.


South Asia Floods

A partially submerged shop and Companiganj Thana Sadar High School buildings in Sylhet on August 14. Star file photo

Widespread monsoon flooding occurred in the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, during July through September 2017. By August 30th, more than 1,200 people died across India, Bangladesh and Nepal as a result of flooding, with 40 million affected by the devastation. Millions were forced from their homes and 18,000 schools were shut down across the region. Bangladesh alone saw a death toll of more than 107 people with an estimated 5.71 million impacted. Many thousands lost their homes.


Sierra Leone flood

Residents save belongings in the floodwaters in Regent on August 14. Photo: Reuters

Devastating flood in Sierra Leone triggered on August 14 killed hundreds of people. Heavy rains and flooding in the region pushed rivers of mud downhill. The government put the official death toll at nearly 500.


Landslide in Democratic Republic of Congo

A landslide in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo likely killed more than 200 people, based on estimates from the number of households submerged. Photo: Reuters

At least 200 people were killed in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a landslide swept through a fishing village on the banks of Lake Albert in Ituri province. The landslide was triggered on August 16 by heavy rain in the village of Tora of Ituri province.


Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria

Interstate highway 45 is submerged from the effects of Hurricane Harvey seen during widespread flooding in Houston, Texas, US August 27, 2017. File photo

Hurricane Harvey broke a rainfall record for a single tropical storm with more than 4 feet of rain in August this year. Starting on August 17, it has been termed as the costliest tropical cyclone on record, inflicting nearly $200 billion in damage.

Damaged houses in Canovanas. Photo: Reuters

Puerto Rico is still mired in the longest blackout in US history after Hurricane Maria struck three months ago on September 16. More than 1,000 are estimated to have died in the storm and its aftermath. It was regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Dominica and Puerto Rico. It was also termed as the tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record and the most intense tropical cyclone worldwide


Typhoon in China

A flooded street is seen outside a McDonalds restaurant as Typhoon Hato hits Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

A record-breaking typhoon busted the markets in Hong Kong and rammed into China on August 23.

Typhoon Hato thrust 99 mile-per-hour winds onto the land damaging water pumps and cutting off power on the former Portuguese colony of Macau, and the markets were shuttered in Hong Kong, where trees were uprooted.

It was the strongest storm of its kind that China has seen since 1968.


Mexico Earthquake

Rescue workers look at fellow workers searching for people under the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake hit Mexico City. Photo: Reuters

A massive magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook Mexico on September 19, killing 369 in Mexico City -- the country's capital -- and in the states of Puebla, Mexico and Morelos. The epicenter of the 7.1-magnitude earthquake was 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) east-northeast of San Juan Raboso and 34.1 miles (55 km) south-southwest of the city of Puebla, in Puebla state, according to the US Geological Survey.


California, Chile, Portugal wildfires

Firefighters keep watch on the Thomas wildfire in the hills and canyons outside Montecito, California, US, December 16, 2017. Photo: Reuters

Blazes gutted Northern California in October, killing more than 40 people in the state's deadliest wildfire streak. The largest of the deadly fires, starting on October 8, burnt in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, with flames ripping through the lush, picturesque landscape.

Just weeks later on December 6, the hills near Los Angeles in Southern California broke out in flames. Highways were transformed into landscapes of hell, fueled by dry, hot weather and powerful Santa Ana winds.

But Americans weren't the only ones hit hard by big fires this year.

Chile saw the worst wildfires in the country's recent history which broke out in January. More than 90 blazes scorched 180,000 hectares, razed hundreds of homes, turned village schools to ashes and destroyed cattle herds and vineyards.

Portugal set a new record, too. A series of four initial deadly wildfires erupted across central Portugal in the afternoon of June 17 within minutes of each other, resulting in at least 65 deaths and more than 130 injured people.

The massive forest blaze in Portugal in June was followed by a wave of wildfires in central and north Portugal and a part of Spain which claimed at least 36 lives and left 63 seriously injured. The fires started on October 15 and blazed across northern Portugal throughout the weekend before spreading across the border into Spain. Many roads and schools in Galicia were closed for days.

The climate change has various direct and indirect impacts on these increasingly devastating natural disasters. The prevention and management of these disasters can be possible by acknowledging and taking climate change seriously. Let us all hope to have a better control over disasters and loss of lives and property in year 2018.