January 1, 2020 marked the beginning of a brand-new decade that many looked at with optimism and as a chance at a new lease on life. Now, three months in many are wondering if this year could get worse and whether what’s passed so far could be a foreboding indicator of what’s yet to come.
A stretch of bad events kicked off the year that will leave a stain on the rest of the year, even if it is to improve. The latest in a series of unfortunate events is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has now brought entire countries to a standstill and has affected hundreds of thousands. Wildfires that ravaged the Australian outback and an accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian jetliner, in which 176 people were killed, as part of a series of escalatory retaliation events amid heightened tensions between Iran and the United States were among events that rocked the world early this year.
The year also witnessed violence in India’s capital Delhi which has left more than 50 dead and hundreds injured after a Hindu nationalist rampage. Other unfortunate events included the earthquakes in Turkey and the Caribbean, a locust swarm outbreak in East Africa, and the death of a world-renowned basketball player as well eight others in a sobering helicopter crash.
The outbreak of coronavirus, or COVID-19, is one 2020 calamity that has caused significant human suffering and major global economic disruption.
The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province, in December 2019, and was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11. As of March 21, more than 276,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in over 180 countries and territories, resulting in more than 11,400 deaths and 90,000 recoveries. The virus’s fatality rate is low – around 1-2 percent – but it spreads easily, and the economic impacts beginning to be felt are likely to have long-lasting effects.
The 2019–2020 Australian bushfire season, known as the black summer, began with several serious and uncontrolled fires in June 2019, mainly in the southeast of the country. The fires, which peaked during December and January, have since been contained and extinguished.
More than half of all Australians have been directly affected by the bushfire crisis, including millions whose health has been affected. As of March 9, the fires, unprecedented for Australia in terms of duration and intensity, burned an estimated 18.6 million hectares, destroyed over 5,900 buildings, and killed at least 34 people. However, smoke pollution that blanketed the country’s southeast during the bushfire may have killed more than 400 people, according to the estimate published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Ukrainian jetliner crash in Iran
The beginning of the year also witnessed a dramatic escalation in hostilities between the US and Iran, after a US drone strike killed Iran’s most notorious spymaster, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Qassem Soleimani.
This culminated in Iran’s military “unintentionally” shooting down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed killing all 176 aboard. The plane was shot down hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted, offering his condolences and saying that investigations continue to identify and prosecute this “great tragedy & unforgivable mistake.”
Devastating floods in Indonesia
Floods in Indonesia's capital Jakarta and nearby towns on the early hours of January 1, killed 66 people and forced almost 400,000 to flee their homes. At least 182 neighborhoods had been submerged in the city's greater area, inundating thousands of homes and buildings, including the presidential palace, and paralyzing transport networks.
Overnight rains caused more rivers to burst their banks in greater Jakarta, sending muddy water up to five feet deep into residential and commercial areas. According to the country's disaster management agency (BNPB), many of the victims drowned or were buried by landslides. Several died of hypothermia and electric shocks.
Communal riots in Delhi
The 2020 Delhi riots included multiple waves of bloodshed, property destruction, and rioting that killed 53 people, most of whom were Muslims who were shot, slashed with repeated blows, or set on fire by Hindu mobs in North East Delhi beginning on the night of February 23.
Paramilitary forces— the Rapid Action Force (RPF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)—were deployed amid allegations of inaction and even complicity of Delhi Police personnel in the clashes.
The events were the result of fallout from the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the dangerous rhetoric employed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in Delhi’s city elections and the mob incitement by a BJP leader to violently remove a group of Muslims who were blocking a road in the capital’s north-west to protest against the legislation.
Taal volcano eruption
Red-hot lava gushed out of a volcano in the Philippines on January 12 after a sudden eruption of ash and steam forced villagers to flee and also shut down Manila’s international airport, offices, and schools.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage from Taal volcano’s eruption south of the capital. But clouds of ash blew more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) north, reaching the bustling capital, Manila, and forcing the shutdown of the country’s main airport with more than 240 international and domestic flights canceled.
Death of Kobe Bryant in helicopter crash
On January 26, Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players, was killed at age 41 in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others on board.
Bryant and fellow passengers were reported by local media to have been on their way to a sports academy in the nearby city of Thousand Oaks, California, where he was to have coached his daughter’s basketball team in a youth tournament.
Earthquakes in Turkey and the Caribbean
A total of 41 people were killed and more than 1,600 were injured in eastern Turkey after an earthquake rattled the region on January 24.
The 6.7 magnitude quake struck near the town of Sivrice, in eastern Elazig province, causing at least 10 buildings to collapse, Interior Minister Sulyman Soylu said. The earthquake was felt in the neighboring provinces of Diyarbakır, Malatya, and Adıyaman, and the neighboring countries of Armenia, Syria, and Iran.
About 1,607 people were hospitalized, Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management President (AFAD) said.
Another powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck in the Caribbean on January 28, prompting brief tsunami warnings and office evacuations as far away as Florida.
The quake hit between Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. It is the largest earthquake in the Caribbean since 1946. Some offices were temporarily evacuated in Miami and parts of Jamaica.
Locusts swam in East Africa
Hundreds of billions of locusts swarmed through parts of East Africa and South Asia in the worst infestation for a quarter of a century, threatening the food supply of tens of millions. The Food and Agricultural Organization said that the locusts could affect the food security of 25 million people.
City-sized swarms of the dreaded pests wrought havoc as they descend on crops and pasturelands, devouring everything in a matter of hours. The scale of the locust outbreak, which affected seven East African countries, was like nothing in recent memory.
Gas plant explosion in Lagos, Nigeria
An explosion at a gas processing plant on March 15 killed at least 15 people and destroyed about 50 buildings after a fire broke out in a suburb of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said the explosion was triggered after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant near the corporation's pipeline in Abule Ado area of Lagos state.
The impact of the explosion led to the collapse of nearby houses, damaged NNPC's pipeline and caused the corporation to halt pumping operations on the Atlas Cove-Mosimi pipeline, the state-owned oil company said in a statement.SHOW MORE