Yearender 2020: Major natural disasters that shook India and rest of the world this year
Cyclone Amphan, considered to be the second major cyclone in the Bay of Bengal after the super cyclone of 1999, devastated West Bengal in May 2020. The death toll in West Bengal due to the cyclone stands at 86. The cyclone also left a trail of massive destruction of property in the state before moving to Bangladesh. The cyclone left many homeless, snapped electricity, internet connection and other communication tools in large parts of the state. Large-scale damage to infrastructure, public and private property was reported from North and South 24 Parganas, East and West Midnapore, Kolkata, Howrah and Hooghly districts. Nearly 45 lakh people in Odisha are affected by the extremely severe cyclonic storm.
An earthquake hit the Aegean Sea near the Turkish city of Izmir in which 116 people were killed and 1,035 injured. The deaths were recorded in Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city as well as on the Greek island of Samos, which lies to the south of the epicentre of the earthquake. The US Geological Survey registered the quake's magnitude at 7.0, though other agencies recorded it as less severe. The tremors were felt across western Turkey, including in Istanbul, as well as in the Greek capital of Athens. Some 1,700 aftershocks followed, according to AFAD, 45 of which were greater than 4.0 magnitude. In Izmir, the quake reduced buildings to rubble or saw floors pancake in on themselves.
Wildfires in California have burned more than 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) in 2020, over twice the previous record for any year and an area larger than Connecticut, reported the state`s fire agency. The most populous US state has suffered five of its six largest wildfires in history this year as heat waves and dry-lightning sieges coincided with drier conditions that climate scientists blame on global warming. At least 31 people have died in this year`s fires and over 8,454 homes and other structures have been destroyed, Cal Fire said in a statement.
The Assam floods in July affected 1,981,801 people and killed 105. A total of 42,275 affected people were evacuated and shifted to 236 relief camps across the state, according to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA). In the Kaziranga National Park, over 137 animals including 14 one-horned rhinos have died during floods this season while 163 of them were rescued. There were damages to the infrastructure including embankment damage, roads, and bridges. In September, fresh floods in four Assam districts affected 34,000 people besides killing one person.
In January 2020 Australia experienced widespread and severe fires causing extensive damage to the local ecosystem and communities and blanketing the surrounding regions in smoke. The last season was dubbed "Black Summer" by Prime Minister Scott Morrison due to unusually prolonged and intense bushfires that burned nearly 12 million hectares (30 million acres), killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion animals. The fire, on January 9, was the second major blaze to ravage Kangaroo Island in South Australia in less than a week. On January, 4th 2020, astronauts flying 17,500 miles per hour onboard the International Space Station (ISS), captured several photographs of smoke plumes from fires in New South Wales and Victoria, spreading off the east coast of Australia into the Tasman Sea.
The death toll from the deadliest cyclone to hit the Philippines in November 2020 stood at 67 and many areas were submerged in the northern region hit by the worst flooding in more than four decades. Cagayan Valley region was heavily flooded after Typhoon Vamco dumped rain over swathes of the main Luzon island, including the capital, metropolitan Manila.
India in June-July witnessed the invasion of desert locusts that spread to nine heartland states of the world’s second-biggest producer of rice and wheat. India battled its worst desert locust outbreak for decades and crop losses were reported in Rajasthan. A helicopter and a dozen drones were deployed for spraying insecticide to stop the locusts. The government had also placed an order for five new helicopter-mounted spray systems from Britain to install in Indian Air Force helicopters, Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said.
Amazon rainforest fires
Fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest worsened in the first week of September and increasingly spread into areas of the untouched forest after the number of fires likely reached a 10-year high in August. Brazil reported 8,373 fires in its portion of the Amazon rainforest for the first seven days of September, more than double the number of fires in the same period a year ago, according to data from Brazil’s national space research agency Inpe. A pressing concern is that 27% of the major fires till September 9 were in virgin forest, rather than in the deforested areas or farmland where blazes are more contained. The fires in the Amazon increased by 13% in the first nine months of the year compared with a year ago. In September, satellites recorded 32,017 hotspots in the world’s largest rainforest.
On June 23, 2020, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake occurred near Oaxaca, Mexico, damaging buildings and prompting evacuations in the region. The earthquake also triggered a tsunami warning, with waves of 0.68 meters (2.2 ft) observed in Acapulco and 0.71 meters (2.3 ft) in Salina Cruz. The death toll stands at 10 people. The area surrounding the popular Huatulco beach resort in the southern state of Oaxaca was hardest hit by the 7.4 magnitude quake, but the shaking could be felt as far away as Mexico City, where tall buildings swayed and thousands of people raced into the streets. Roughly 30 buildings in the capital were damaged, and in a northern neighbourhood that was hard hit by a 2017 earthquake, some residents had to evacuate their homes.
Torrential rain hit Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu, with at least one more river bursting its banks, as the death toll from three days of floods and mudslides rose to 44, including 14 at an old people’s home. Evacuation orders were issued for more than half a million island residents, as well as evacuation advisories for tens of thousands more in western Japan, broadcaster NHK said.