The Slatest

This Week in Disasters: Fire and Water

Clouds of smoke rise above mountains
Fires burn outside Comarca Andina, Argentina, on Wednesday. Latin America News Agency/Reuters

Disasters are big to the people they affect, but amid all the headlines, they’re easy for others to miss. We’ve rounded up the chaos that caught our attention this week in our new roundup, This Week in Disasters.

Slow-brewing disaster: Mount Etna in Italy had a huge eruption on Feb. 16. Ever since, it’s been spewing ash—usually just a little, but on Sunday, Etna blasted ash 33,000 feet into the sky. Ash and lava rain poured down on nearby Sicilian villages.


The worst disaster (in this country’s recent history): Three explosions rang out from Bata, Equatorial Guinea’s largest city, on Sunday afternoon, causing thousands to run to the surrounding hills. The blasts came from carelessly stored dynamite at the Nkoantoma Military Base. The damage was extensive: More than 100 people were killed and more than 600 people were injured.


Twitter ghosts disaster: Alexi McCammond was hired as Teen Vogue’s new editor in chief on March 5. On Monday, homophobic and racist anti-Asian tweets resurfaced from her college days. McCammond has issued multiple apologies, and the staff has voiced concerns.

Fighting violence with violence disaster: Women—some armed with blow torches, bats, and hammers—took to Mexico City’s streets on Monday, International Women’s Day, to draw attention to issues of violence against women. More than 80 people were injured in clashes with police.


Fire disaster: Six fires have ravaged Argentina’s Patagonia region since Tuesday. The blazes, which authorities think were intentionally lit, have charred thousands of forest acres and reached towns by the Andes mountains foothills. More than 200 homes have been destroyed, 11 people are missing, and one person has died.

Show-and-tell disaster: homemade explosive device was accidentally set off by a Michigan teen in his high school class on Tuesday. The teacher and five students were injured, including the 16-year-old boy. He’s been suspended from school—and his father, who made the Molotov cocktail, was charged.

Another school kidnapping disaster: Thirty students in Northwest Nigeria are missing after being kidnapped from their school, the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, early Friday. This the country’s fourth student kidnapping since December.


Migration disaster: Two boats, carrying African migrants across the Mediterranean to Italy, sank near Tunisia on Tuesday. Thirty-nine people died, and 165 were rescued.

Pilgrimage disaster: Students, parents, and teachers from an Islamic middle school in Indonesia were busing home—down narrow roads—from a pilgrimage site on the island of Java on Wednesday when the bus’s brakes reportedly failed.The vehicle tumbled off the highway and into a gorge, killing 29 (including the driver).

Europe’s COVID disaster:  While COVID cases have fallen in the U.S., Europe has risen as the new viral hot spot. According to reporting on Thursday, the EU has had more than 800,000 cases in the past week—a 5.8 percent increase from the previous week. Italy is going back into partial lockdown, and vaccine rollout in the EU has been dangerously slow.


Media disaster: Sixty-five journalists were killed on the job in 2020, according to a report released Friday by the International Federation of Journalists. This is a 17-person increase from 2019.

Runaway dinner disaster: A Wednesday message from local police alerted citizens that a 1,600-pound steer escaped a slaughterhouse outside of Providence, Rhode Island—and has now been on the loose for more than a month. The steer has been spotted waiting for a traffic light to change in the town of Johnston, and later in Providence, but has managed to elude capture.

Liquid disasters: Up to 20 inches of rain on Monday sent floods surging through Hawaii—particularly Maui and Oahu—damaging homes and roads and propelling Gov. David Ige to declare a state of emergency. And in Southern California, a storm on Wednesday caused mud slidescar crashes, and highway floods.

Frozen disaster: “Intense” snowfall, ranging from 20 to 40 inches, is expected to pile up on the front range of the Rockies (affecting Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska) this weekend before moving east toward Arkansas. In Estes Park, Colorado, forecasters are predicting up to 90 inches of snow.