According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, at least 68,000 people are killed and 218 million severely affected by natural disasters every year. The World Economic Forum (WEF) released the Global Risks Report 2023 on January 12, which stated that natural disasters and extreme weather events are “the second-most severe risk that the world needs to be prepared for in the next two years.”
Such reports and analysis indicate a heavy loss of biodiversity, natural resources which could increase global risk. Events of global disasters are also indications of severe climate change. Less than two months into 2023, and the world has already been hit by some of the worst levels of natural disasters.
1. Forest fires in Chile
On February 4, the first reports of forest fires brought on by a heatwave in Chile surfaced. The government recorded 24 fatalities by February 8. In addition to forcing hundreds of people to evacuate, the catastrophe put the habitats of several endangered animal species in jeopardy. According to some accounts, it might take around ten years for the area’s fertile land to recover. The forest fires have affected 270,000 hectares (667,000 acres) of land.
2. Earthquake in Syria and Turkey
A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Syria’s northern and western regions, as well as the southern and central sections of Turkey, on February 6. Only nine hours later, a second, much stronger 7.7 magnitude earthquake with numerous aftershocks rocked the area, escalating the devastation. One of the deadliest earthquakes in recent Turkish history was this disastrous one. Nearly 44,000 people have died as a result of the aftershocks in Turkey and Syria as of February 17, and many more people are still unaccounted for.
3. Australia’s flash floods
Flash floods were caused by torrential rain on February 8 and 9 in New South Wales. There were over 600 calls for assistance, necessitating the evacuation of thousands of individuals. The majority of the areas were unaffected because the storms that brought the floods were confined to the coast. As of February 9, there had been no reports of fatalities.
4. Earthquake in New Zealand
A powerful earthquake that shook the area around Wellington, New Zealand’s main city, occurred on February 13. The catastrophe occurred while the nation was still dealing with the fallout from tropical cyclone Gabrielle, which took seven lives. On Tuesday (February 14), the 6.1-magnitude earthquake prompted Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to proclaim a national state of emergency, citing the ongoing rain and flooding as aggravating factors. About 9,000 individuals had been left homeless as of February 16; 3,000 of them had sought refuge in emergency shelters. Alarmingly, 1,442 people have been listed by the authorities as formally missing.
5. Avalanche in Tajik
A number of avalanches have occurred this week in the eastern Tajik province of Gorno-Badakhshan. On February 16, there were 69 or so of these reported and the number of reported fatalities had been 20. Numerous families were compelled to leave their houses. The Gorno-Badakhshan region, which borders China and Afghanistan, is in a dire position; many regions are still inaccessible due to dangerous conditions and blocked roads. The government has warned locals not to journey through the area until further notice and has suspended international traffic. Roads and houses were both damaged by the avalanches, making rescue efforts even more difficult.
6. Brazil Floods
The region experienced heavy rainfall on February 18–19, 2023, as an area of low pressure off the coast of Brazil delivered moist onshore flow. Brazil’s richest state, São Paulo, which has already received more than 600mm (23.6 inches) of rain—the greatest cumulative total ever recorded in the nation—has experienced landslides and flooding in coastal communities due to intense downpours. As the official death toll increased to 48, search and rescue teams rushed to find the dozens of people still unaccounted for after heavy rains devastated coastal areas of Brazil’s southeastern So Paulo state. The latest in a string of recent natural catastrophes to hit Brazil are the floods in the coastal state of Sao Paulo.