By Kean Huy Alado
Environmental tragedies unfolded across the globe since August. First, the Hawaiian island of Maui was engulfed in wildfires; second, an earthquake left multiple Moroccan communities, including Casablanca, in ruins; and third, a destructive unexpected flood runs down Derna, a Libyan city.
Active power lines were suspected of falling due to high winds, which led to a rampaging wildfire on Aug. 8, consuming most of West Maui. Another fire lit up the city of Lahaina on the south-west coast of the island later in the day. In response, Washington Task Force-1 entered Maui on Aug. 11 with an overall team of 85 to assist in the recovery efforts. Over two weeks, rescuers scouted and dug over 2,200 affected structures to discover and confirm at least 97 deaths, announcing 31 people missing from the initial fire. In the Lahaina area, 74 deaths have been confirmed. It is expected West Maui suffered $5.5 billion in damages from the destruction.
Maui resident, Mark Stefl, lost his house and two pets in the fire and described the fire as, “just traveling too fast and too hot and next thing you know Lahaina town is gone, literally gone.”
Affected victims and Maui County officials filed a lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, the leading utility of the state, over their mismanagement and malicious intention with the power lines. Wild winds tore the power lines during the storm which allowed it to ignite vegetation, indicating that Hawaiian Electric supplied power during the storm.
Bob Marshall, the founder of Whisker Labs, the company that places sensors to monitor the power grid, agreed “utility grid faults were likely the ignition source for multiple wildfires on Maui.” This led to the Hawaiian community’s uproar over a tragedy that could have been avoided under more professional and meticulous attention to utility duties.
At approximately 6:11 p.m. on Sept. 8, the High Atlas Mountain range became the epicenter for a 6.8 magnitude earthquake. Any value above six pose serious threats to large and populated cities. Moreover, this earthquake proved to be a larger threat due to shallow tremors. The nearest city from the epicenter was Marrakech, about 44 miles northeast, housing more than 840,000 people. The extent of this quake reached even the Moroccan capital, Casablanca, far north. In the province of Al Haouz, nearly 1,500 people lost their lives and towns at the foothill of the mountains were crushed.
The aid of a few countries was accepted, with France offering $5.3 billion to repair damages and Spain sending rescue teams with search dogs to save missing, trapped locals.
“It is really hard because people just keep using their hands [to dig], there is no other equipment to make this quick for us,” Abderrahman Farah, the brother of a trapped person under the ruins, told CBS.
Heavy rainfall overloaded two dams in Derna leading to massive flooding and the collapse of many buildings on Sept. 10 as Storm Daniel made landfall in East Libya from the Mediterranean. There were around 6,000 casualties with a little over 40,000 internally displaced individuals. People were swept out of cars, bridges were crushed, and neighborhoods were drowned.
In response to this, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (U.N.I.C.E.F.) provided relief support with emergency supplies, medical assistance, and sanitation devices. They have also provided clothing for children and families. Additional involvement from other parties included rescue efforts to save missing, trapped, or injured civilians.
Greece’s urbanization and deforestation have affected the landscape allowing for greater impact from the cyclone; however, the civil wars in Libya caused the negligence in dam maintenance and communication amongst Libyans.
According to researchers, Storm Daniel was analyzed to be 50 percent more intense caused by the climate change accelerated by humans. A representative of Netherland’s Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, Maya Vahlberg announced, “climate change and human factors can combine to create compounding and cascading impact.”
All of these tragedies and lack of maintenance demonstrate the domino effect of human-induced climate change.
“Barry University has reached out to these students affected to offer support and assistance as needed,” said International Program Manager Frederique Frage.
Being overseas and studying so far away from a homeland in trouble, even the homeland of students’ parents, can bring an overwhelming amount of grief. It can be a powerless feeling that haunts any person throughout their lives.
“International students are already dealing with the difficulty of being in another country away from family and friends trying to earn their degrees, but then to find out about these disasters affecting family members in their home countries can be overwhelming,” said Frage.