We’re nearly one month into 2022, and the year has already packed a significant punch. From devastating natural disasters to tragedy in the wake of 2021, let’s recap the most major events of 2022 thus far.
Tongatapu Underwater Volcano Triggers Overwhelming Tsunami
On Saturday, January 15, an underwater volcano in the Pacific Ocean erupted, causing a tsunami. The underwater volcano is located off the coast of the western island of Tongatapu, near American Samoa and Fiji. After the volcano eruption occurred, satellite image depicted large clouds of ash, gas and steam that reached up to 20 kilometers (12.4 mils) into the atmosphere.
A statement released by the New Zealand High Commission on Monday, January 17 illustrated the long-lasting impacts of the underwater eruption, stating that, “A thick layer of ash remains across Tongatapu.” Both Australia and New Zealand have responded rapidly to aid the island, but efforts have been halted due to the continuing ash that descends from the volcano.
The volcanic eruption triggered a tsunami that devastated the island of Tongatapu. The effects of the tsunami have been fatal, with the UN confirming 4 deaths so far as of Tuesday, January 18. The tsunami sent enormous waves, forcing the people of Tonga to escape to higher ground. The tsunami ultimately cut off internet connection to the island, sending the rest of the world into a frenzy.
Another complication surrounding aid efforts for the island surrounds the COVID-19 pandemic. Tonga has withstood any outbreaks of COVID-19 during the duration of the pandemic, and want to keep it this way. All military staff from New Zealand that were sent to assist the island were fully vaccinated and able to follow all protocols determined by Tonga.
Fires Swarm New York City
In what seems to be a series of devastation for the Bronx in New York City, there has been an alarming number of fires in the area. The first damaging and lethal fire occurred on Sunday, January 9, and left 17 people dead. The major fire struck a 19-story building at 333 East 181st Street and was the deadliest the city has seen since the 1990 Happy Land Social Club fire.
The unprecedented fire resulted in 32 people hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Of the 17 victims left dead, nine were children. The source of this fire was a “malfunctioning electric space heater,” NYC Major Eric Adams declared at a press conference. In the 19-story building, the fire began upon the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building. The fire resulted due to complications with the heater, and the blaze consumed the bedroom it was in, and then spread to the entire apartment. The apartment’s door was open, and the thick smoke spread throughout the whole building complex.
When the New York City Fire Department responded to the fire, they were faced with dense smoke and fire that devoured the hallways of the apartment complex. Individuals were found throughout stairways on each floor of the complex in cardiac arrest. Daniel Nigro, commissioner of the FDNY, said that the injuries of victims were primarily from smoke inhalation.
Wednesday, January 19, the Bronx rapper Cardi B announced that she would cover the funeral costs for all 17 victims. She issued a statement that read, “I cannot begin to imagine the pain and anguish that the families of the victims are experiencing, but I hope that not having to worry about the costs associated with burying their loved ones will help as they move forward and heal. I send my prayers and condolences to everyone affected by this horrific tragedy.”
Fat Joe, fellow native to the Bronx, hosted a fundraiser Saturday, January 22, at New York’s HOT 197 and 107.5 WLBS over the radio to raise money for the families of the 17 victims. “This is my village, this is my tribe,” he said, “It’s 14 degrees outside right now. People are homeless, people are displaced, we gotta help them as much as we can.” Fat Joe has already successfully raise $1M for the families of the Bronx fire victims.
Devastatingly, another fire struck the Bronx only a little over a week after and three miles south of this first catastrophic fire. Tuesday, January 18, another Bronx apartment building had a fire start, leading to a partial building collapse. This fire was not as extreme as the last, but still left at least one woman dead, with two injured in stable condition.
The exact reasoning for the fire has yet to be confirmed – it was first regarded as a gas-related explosion, but Con Ed, an electric and gas service, deemed that there has been no evidence that the fire was gas-related. The FDNY searched through debris for some type of indication of a main start point for the fire, but nothing has been pinpointed.
Bystanders told News 4 that “they heard at least two explosions, followed by flames. Onlookers at first thought it was snowing, until they realized it was ash from the fire coming down instead.”
Train Robberies hit Los Angeles
Shredded boxes and packages pile up in a section of the Union Pacific (UP) train tracks in downtown Los Angeles. The mounds of litter are from recent train robberies of train cargo containers. Packages from retailers like Amazon and REI have been ransacked. The robbers have stolen from nearly 90 train containers each day, estimates PC, the country’s major rail freight company.
UP sent a letter to Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon highlighting the affects of the train robberies in his jurisdiction. In total, train robberies have climbed by 356% from October 2020 to October 2021. The estimated total of stolen goods amounts to $5 million from the railroad alone.
UP communicates that they have begun discussions about discontinuing traffic through Los Angeles County. The letter also states that FedEx and UPS are contemplating deflecting shipping from the area.
“We do not take this effort lightly, particularly during the supply chain crisis, as this drastic change to our operations will create significant impacts and strains throughout the local, state, and national supply chain systems,” the letter to Gascon read out.
UP senior director of public affairs, Lupe Valdez, revealed that, “we are making arrests, but what our officers are seeing on the ground is that people are basically being arrested, there is no bail, they come out the next day and come back to rob our trains.”
The UP company criticizes the district attorney’s office in their letter for not properly punishing the criminals that are stealing from the cargo containers. The letter states, “without any judicial deterrence or consequence, it is no surprise that over the past year UP has witnessed the significant increase in criminal rail theft described above.”
Fashion Legend André Leon Talley Dead at 73
Tuesday, January 19, André Leon Talley passed away. Talley is a true icon in the fashion world, having been a former renowned creative director and editor for Vogue for a multitude of years. It was reported that Talley was struggling with an unknown illness, of which he lost his fight against. His remembered by colleagues and admirers worldwide.
Racist MLK TikTok Video Gets Taken Down
TikTok user @trevon_sellers posted a shocking video, with a caption that read “HAPPY MLK DAY.” In the video, a poster board sign sits propped up against what seems to be an empty road near some farmland. The poster reads “SLAVE 4 SALE” with two confederate flags around the text. In the video, the popular song “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)” by Silentó plays, as the chorus sings “Watch me whip,” a young boy dressed up in a white tee with khaki pants physically whips an African American man with a belt. The original TikTok can still be accessed through the stitched videos of other creators.
The video has since been taken down by TikTok and has gained attention, appalling that this type of racist, insensitive video would be posted on Martin Luther King Day, the holiday set to commemorate the life and work of the civil rights movement leader Dr. King.
Regina King’s son Dies by Suicide
Friday, January 21, Oscar-winner Regina King’s son Ian Alexander Jr. died by suicide. King verified the heartbreaking news with a statement to PEOPLE on Friday. “Our family is devastated at the deepest level by the loss of Ian. He is such a bright light who cared so deeply about the happiness of others. Our family asks for respectful consideration during this private time. Thank you.”
Amidst the tragic revelation, fans searched the internet for some type of sign, and found some truly poignant messages. A series of disturbing tweets were the last messages that Ian posted were his last messages to the world. “You know that episode of SpongeBob where they go inside his brain and it’s a bunch of mini spongebobs just losing their s–t…..yea that one really hits home,” he tweeted only five days prior to his death. A separate tweet after this one read, “I don’t think instagram is heatlhy for me.”