Reverberations of Middle East Conflict and More Natural Disasters Worldwide

Reverberations of Middle East Conflict and More Natural Disasters Worldwide

by Kiril Krastanoff

Welcome back to MIRA Safety's weekly SHTF news update! This week, we'll be covering a range of events that highlight the importance of preparedness. First, we'll look at the ongoing tensions in the Middle East and then turn our attention to a series of natural disasters around the world, including devastating floods. 

Throughout the update, we'll provide actionable tips to help you and your loved ones be prepared for both manmade and natural disasters.

First up, we’ll be looking at the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and its ripple effects. Protests and demonstrations have erupted on college campuses across the U.S., and Israel has launched a military strike against Iran.

Next, we’ll turn our attention to a series of natural disasters that have caused significant damage and disruption around the world. China’s Guangdong Province has been hit hard by severe flooding, while toxic fumes have choked the air in India’s capital, New Delhi.

Finally, we’ll end on a positive note with a heartwarming story about people with disabilities who are finding new opportunities.


Table of Contents

  • 01

    Pro-Palestinian Protests Erupt on U.S. College Campuses

  • 02

    Israel Retaliates Against Iran With Military Strike

  • 03

    China Battered With Severe Floods in Guangdong Province

  • 04

    New Delhi Fire and Toxic Fumes Engulf India’s Capital

  • 05

    Nuclear Waste Dams Threaten Central Asia

  • 06

    How Can You Prepare for CBRN Threats?

  • 07

    Hope for People with Disabilities in a Heartwarming Story

Pro-Palestinian Protests Erupt on U.S. College Campuses

Protestors outside the University of Texas (Image courtesy of Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP)

The boiling tensions in the Middle East have resulted in backlash on U.S. soil as protests erupt on U.S. college campuses over the Israel-Palestine conflict. Hundreds of pro-Palestinian students have been arrested in clashes with police. They are demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to university ties with companies linked to Israel.

One major protest site is the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where pro-Palestine and pro-Israel demonstrators clashed. The situation became tense when protestors broke through a barrier separating the two groups.

Here is what the current situation looks like:

  • The number of arrests nationwide reached nearly 900 shortly before graduation.
  • Some universities had to resort to help from the police to retain control.
  • New York's Columbia University was at the forefront in terms of the mass arrests.
  • Since the protests began, students have established many protest encampments around the U.S., intending to continue their activism. 

Similar incidents have occurred at other universities. At Harvard, a Palestine flag was raised on a statue, and at Emory University, police used pepper balls on protestors. Universities across the U.S. are struggling to manage these protests while protecting free speech and student safety.

The tensions began in October 2023 with rising anti-Semitic incidents on campuses. Universities have used various methods to control the protests, including public space rules and threats of disciplinary action.

Israel Retaliates Against Iran With Military Strike

Israeli fighter jet preparing for a sortie (Image courtesy of the IDF)

Following a surprise Iranian attack on Israel utilizing drones and missiles (a total of around 300 ballistic missiles and drones), Israel responded with a military strike against Iran. 

According to intelligence sources, Israel launched jets that fired several air-launched ballistic missiles aimed at an Iranian air base near the Natanz nuclear complex, close to Tehran.

While Iran has downplayed the extent of the retaliatory strike, speculation continues regarding the exact targets and damage caused.

After both sides have been vowing forceful responses to each other's actions, Israel has stated its intention to decide to what extent, when, and how to respond to Iranian attacks.

What Happens Now?

  • Experts are divided on whether these attacks represent the beginning of a full-scale war between Israel and Iran or are carefully measured acts of retaliation.
  • The extent of Israel's response may also depend on whether it has backing from the United States. 
  • While the U.S. has pledged support to Israel, it has indicated it won't participate in offensive military operations against Iran.

Analysts differ on whether the recent exchanges signal the beginning of an all-out war or are carefully calibrated retaliation strikes. 

Some argue that the attacks have crossed a threshold into a direct nation-on-nation conflict, while others see the actions as limited and telegraphed, suggesting a continuation of the "shadow war" rather than full-scale warfare.

However, since two large military powers are involved, any miscalculation could easily and tragically lead to a full-blown serious regional conflict. If you want to read a full breakdown of the Iranian attack on Israel's territory, we have a dedicated article here.

China Battered With Severe Floods in Guangning Province

Heavy flooding as seen from above in Quingyuan, China (Image courtesy of Tingshu Wang)

Southern China has been experiencing several days of relentless heavy rain, triggering major floods and jeopardizing the lives of tens of millions. 

Here is a brief overview of the latest developments in China:

  • Guangdong province, a key economic hub, has borne the brunt of the disaster, with over 110,000 people forced to evacuate and at least four confirmed deaths.
  • While the Pearl River Delta grapples with annual flooding during the monsoon season (April to September), the intensity of these downpours appears to be escalating. 
  • This year, Guangdong has witnessed record-breaking rainfall in several areas.

Experts attribute this to climate change, which is amplifying extreme weather events like floods, making them more frequent and destructive. 

The current situation is far from typical. The Bei River, a tributary of the Pearl River, is experiencing its worst flooding on record, with water levels predicted to rise above the warning limit by a staggering 5.8 meters (19 feet). This "once-in-a-century" flood, according to officials, usually occurs much later in the year, around late June.

The heavy rain shows no signs of letting up, with the Guangdong Meteorological Bureau forecasting more downpours for the remainder of the week. This relentless water assault has caused significant damage, with over 80 houses collapsing or sustaining severe damage. 

The economic impact is also substantial, with losses estimated to be close to 140 million yuan ($20 million). To counter the crisis, authorities have raised the flood control emergency response to the second-highest level and are urging residents to stay vigilant for further heavy rain.

New Delhi Fire & Toxic Fumes Engulf India’s Capital

Image of smoke rising up from the fire in the Ghazipur landfill, New Delhi (Image courtesy of Sharma/Getty Images)

As we covered last week, a massive fire at Ghazipur landfill, New Delhi's largest trash dump, has engulfed the Indian capital with toxic fumes. This isn't the first time such a blaze has occurred — every year during scorching summers, landfill fires erupt, adding to the city's already concerning climate woes.

Quick Recap on New Delhi Landfill Fire:

  • The cause of the fire is yet unknown, but experts point to combustible gases from decomposing garbage as a likely culprit.  
  • These fires exacerbate air pollution and contribute to methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas.  
  • Residents near the landfill suffer the brunt of the health consequences, complaining of irritated eyes and throats due to the lingering acrid air.  
  • Exposure to methane can worsen lung diseases and asthma and even increase the risk of stroke.

The Ghazipur landfill is overflowing and a stark symbol of India's waste management woes.  Standing at over 200 feet tall, the trash mountain has surpassed its capacity and looms over surrounding neighborhoods, posing health risks to residents.   

While the recent fire has been mostly extinguished, the long-term dangers persist. Over decades, toxins from the landfill have seeped into the ground, polluting the water supply.

What Comes Next for Delhis Residents?

Thick layers of smoke as part of daily life for citizens in New Delhi (Image courtesy of AP)

Unfortunately, there seems to be no easy solution. Authorities are struggling to keep up with the ever-growing amount of waste piling into Ghazipur.  

Efforts to extract methane from the landfill for power generation have been slow, and proposals to "flatten the mountain" by 2024 seem highly unlikely. While the Indian government has outlined solutions such as improved waste collection and processing, these efforts haven't kept pace with the problem.   

With India's refusal to join the Global Methane Pledge, the situation is likely to worsen, impacting not just the health of residents but also the global fight against climate change.

Taking action should be a top priority as the toxic chemicals released from landfills are likely to cause long-lasting and irreversible health issues, such as respiratory illnesses, heart problems, and even cancer.

How Can You Protect Yourself Against Toxic Fumes?

If you're concerned about toxic fumes and chemicals from fires, here are some key steps to take:

  • Evacuate the area immediately! This is the most important action to avoid exposure to fumes.
  • Wear a proper respirator with filters suitable for the specific type of fumes you might encounter.
  • Seal your home (if sheltering in place). If evacuation isn't possible, close windows and doors to create a barrier. Seal cracks around doors and windows with damp towels or duct tape.

Remember that during an emergency where the air quality is compromised and can lead to harm and even death, you might have to spend some time going through the affected area before getting out. 

At this point, having adequate respiratory protection for yourself and your loved ones is mandatory for survival. In North America, wildfires are becoming increasingly more common as temperatures continue to rise, and many people annually find themselves needing to evacuate their homes. 

If you are into preparedness, one of the items that should find its way into your bug-out bag is a high-quality respiratory protection system.

At MIRA Safety, we offer a specialized EvakPak Survival Kit with a full-face respirator and two specialized gas mask filters. 

The VK-530 filter included is designed to provide specialized protection from smoke and carbon monoxide, while the NBC-77 filter offers protection from nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) threats and toxic chemicals. 

Nuclear Waste Dams Threaten Central Asia

Construction near the river in the uranium mine (Image courtesy of Marlis Myrzakul Uulu/ Reuters)

Central Asia is teetering on the brink of environmental catastrophe. Dams precariously holding vast amounts of uranium mine tailings — leftover waste from uranium processing — threaten to collapse, unleashing radioactive disaster upon the densely populated Fergana Valley below. 

Let's start with some facts and history to better understand the severity of this situation and its implications for not just the local population but also neighboring countries:

  • These dilapidated dams, located near the Kyrgyzstani town of Mailuu-Suu, house a staggering 700,000 cubic meters (185 million gallons) of uranium tailings.  
  • Studies conducted by the European Commission and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development paint a grim picture. 
  • A powerful earthquake or even another landslide, similar to the one that struck in 2017, could trigger a dam breach. 

If we can learn something from the history of nuclear disasters, we should know that the consequences would be catastrophic — a radioactive nightmare reminiscent of Chernobyl.

The radioactive waste wouldn't simply remain localized. The Mailuu-Suu River, which snakes its way through the heart of the Fergana Valley, serves as a vital irrigation source for vast swathes of agricultural land across Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.  

The potential contamination of this river by radioactive waste poses a dire threat to food security in the region. Experts warn that the liquid nature of the waste makes it particularly hazardous, as it would readily spread through the irrigation system, rendering vast areas of farmland unusable.

Image courtesy of Envato

The human cost of a dam breach could be equally devastating. The Fergana Valley is home to over 16 million people, making it one of the most densely populated regions in Central Asia. A large-scale release of radioactive material would necessitate the evacuation and relocation of millions, disrupting lives and livelihoods.

Key information so far on the looming environmental catastrophe in Central Asia:

  • The urgency of the situation is compounded by the deteriorating condition of the dams themselves. 
  • The 2017 landslide significantly weakened their foundations, and rising river levels threatened to overtop them.  
  • The Kyrgyzstan government, in collaboration with German engineering firm G.E.O.S., estimates that relocating the waste to a safer site farther away from the river would cost between 22 and 25 million euros (approximately $25-$30 million USD). 

While this sum seems substantial, it pales in comparison to the potential economic and humanitarian costs of a full-blown nuclear disaster.

The looming crisis exposes the dark legacy of Soviet-era uranium mining practices. During the 1940s and 60s, the Soviet Union heavily exploited the rich uranium deposits near Mailuu-Suu, leaving behind a toxic environmental burden for future generations to grapple with.  

During the race to mine and process nuclear materials, either for weaponry, science, or energy purposes, our planning for long-term waste management was inadequate. Here's why:

Half-life disparity & Lack of Knowledge

Image courtesy of Envato 

Nuclear waste contains isotopes (atoms of the same element with varying numbers of neutrons) with vastly different radioactive half-lives. Half-life refers to the time it takes for an isotope to decay to half its original radioactivity. 

Some isotopes, like Plutonium-239, boast half-lives of 24,000 years, while others decay much faster. This vast disparity in half-lives makes designing a single, all-encompassing storage solution extremely challenging — necessitating planning thousands of years in advance (something logistically improbable to achieve for any government).

Early understanding of radioactivity and its long-term effects was limited. The true scale of the environmental and health risks associated with nuclear waste wasn't fully appreciated in the early days of nuclear development.

The initial focus during the nuclear boom was on achieving specific objectives — building atomic bombs, developing nuclear reactors for electricity generation, or conducting scientific research. Long-term waste management wasn't a primary concern at the outset.

Nuclear Waste is Here to Stay for a Long Time

The current situation serves as a stark reminder of the enduring environmental and human costs associated with nuclear power production, even after the mines themselves have closed.

The international community must act swiftly to avert this looming disaster. Financial assistance is crucial to help Kyrgyzstan safely relocate the radioactive waste. 

How Can You Prepare for CBRN Threats?

Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats encompass a range of emergencies, and preparation is key to minimizing their impact. While landfill fires and nuclear power plant meltdowns are distinct events, both can release hazardous materials into the surrounding environment. Here's what you can do to be prepared:

Be Informed: Stay updated on potential CBRN threats in your area. Sign up for local emergency alerts and have a plan to receive important information during a crisis. Familiarize yourself with the different types of CBRN threats and their potential effects.

Have an Emergency Kit!

Prepare a kit containing essential supplies like respirator masks (N95 or higher for most CBRN threats), bottled water, non-perishable food, a battery-powered radio, and first aid supplies. Consider including items specific to potential threats in your area.  

Due to the stress on a state or country caused during a nuclear emergency, rioting and social unrest might also break out, in which case you must factor in tools for your personal safety and protection during a nuclear SHTF event.

Develop a Shelter Plan

Radiation is a real-life invisible boogeyman and more frightening than any fictional character. It passes through walls and objects and has no sound, smell, or taste. Once it comes into contact with living organisms at a high enough exposure, it wreaks havoc on their cells and systems.

For this reason, you must have a place where you can stay for prolonged periods of time as the radiation particles settle down or disperse. This must also be a place that has walls sufficiently thick and of the right material, with a ventilation system sealing it from outside irradiated air particles.

Identify a designated shelter-in-place location within your home, ideally a room with few windows and doors. Seal any cracks or openings around windows and doors with duct tape and damp towels during a CBRN event. 

Don't forget to map out and plan evacuation routes and practice drills with your family. Identify potential dangers along your evacuation route and have a designated meeting place outside the affected area.

The last thing you want to do is frantically Google this information right when a nuclear disaster occurs.

Worst Case Scenarios

A nuclear meltdown or low-altitude/ground-level nuclear strike is a worst-case scenario where the reactor core overheats, damaging the containment structure and potentially releasing radioactive materials.  

The severity of the impact depends on the amount of radioactive material released, weather conditions, and proximity to the power plant. Authorities will establish evacuation zones based on these factors. 

If you are within the evacuation zone, follow their instructions immediately. Staying informed and having a plan in place can significantly improve your chances of staying safe during a CBRN event.

Hope for People with Disabilities in A Heartwarming Story

Image courtesy of So Much To Give Cafe/ Facebook

This week's news has been heavy, but Maureen Stanko's story offers a beacon of hope and inclusivity. Faced with uncertainty about her son Nick's future after graduating from a program for students with disabilities, Stanko refused to settle for worry. 

Fueled by her belief in Nick's potential and inspired by her father's words, "When you have a problem, pray like hell, then get up off your knees and do something," Stanko took action.

The result? The So Much To Give Inclusive Cafe in Cedars, Pennsylvania. This isn't just a restaurant; it's a haven for opportunity and acceptance. Employing 63 people, a remarkable 80% of whom have disabilities, the cafe offers a chance for individuals to thrive in a supportive environment. From greeters and servers to sous chefs and dishwashers, these employees contribute their unique talents and leave their mark on the cafe's success.

The impact extends far beyond employment. For many with disabilities, dining out can be a stressful experience. So Much To Give provides a safe space where everyone feels welcome, regardless of ability. As Maureen says, "This cafe has taught Nick how to sit in a restaurant...Because now we have a place to go, where if he stands up and starts hopping like a bunny or clapping or yelling, nobody cares."

The cafe's positive influence extends even further. Lauren Oppelts, who is hearing impaired, found a place to blossom at So Much To Give. She started as a hostess but has grown in confidence and now even teaches sign language classes. Stories like Lauren's are a testament to the transformative power of So Much To Give.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's happening with the protests on U.S. campuses?
How worried should I be about nuclear waste dams in Central Asia?
Are there steps I can take to prepare for CBRN threats?