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 healthy for me.”
Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying New York Times defamation trial
Monday, January 24, Sarah Palin’s defamation trial against the New York Times was pushed back due to her testing positive for COVID-19. She was tested three individual times with rapid coronavirus tests, and Judge Jed Rakoff ended up having to postpone the trial due to a fourth positive test. “She is, of course, unvaccinated,” Rakoff stated. The trial was delayed until February 3.
The trial involves a 2017 New York Times editorial that falsely connected her political action committee to a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona. Palin took out a lawsuit, arguing that the Times defamed her through “falsely stated as a matter of fact to millions of people that Mrs. Palin incited Jared Loughner’s January 8, 2011, shooting rampage at a political event in Tucson, Arizona, during which he shot nineteen people, severely wounding United States Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.”
Meat Loaf dies at 74
Rockstar Meat Loaf reportedly died on January 20, 2022, at the age of 74. The “I’d Do Anything For Love,” singer allegedly was battling COVID-19. Although no official cause of death has been publicized, TMZ reported this information, asserting that Meat Loaf was “seriously ill” before he passed.
Meat Loaf had a fabulous career in the realm of rock music that lasted six decades. He sold millions of records, released Bat Out Of Hell which is one of the best-selling albums in all of history (with over 43 million copies sold) and was renowned for starring in Rocky Horror Picture Show, Fight Club and many other television and film specials.
“Weekends with Adele” Las Vegas residency postponed
Adele’s residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has been postponed. The residency was set to begin Friday, January 21, through mid-April. The “Hello” singer took to social media to announce that the show as not ready as half of her team was sick with COVID. She said, “I’m so sorry, but my show ain’t ready… We’ve tried absolutely everything that we can to put it together in time and for it to be good enough for you, but we’ve been absolutely destroyed by delivery delays and COVID.”
Bridgeport woman dead after first meeting with man on Bumble
Lauren Smith-Fields, 23-years-old at the time, was found December 12 in her apartment, unresponsive. Police were called to the residence by a white man that Smith-Fields had met three days preceding her death on Bumble. The two were reportedly drinking in the apartment the night before, and in the morning the man awoke to blood coming out of her nose.
This man was not detained nor investigated further by the Bridgeport Police Department. Smith-Fields family is preparing to sue the city and the police department, alleging in the filed notice that the police “”failed to implement the proper crime scene investigation team to collect physical evidence,” and “refuse to view the last person to see Smith-Fields before she died as a person of interest.”
On January 24, the Connecticut chief medial examiner’s officer reported that the cause of death was “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine and alcohol,” with the medical examiner ultimately ruling that the death was an “accident.”
Janet Jackson Lifetime documentary premieres January 28 & 29
Janet Jackson’s brand-new Lifetime documentary premieres on January 28 and 29. The doc commemorates Janet’s first album, Janet Jackson (1982). The doc premiering on Lifetime and A&E delves deeper into the life story of worldwide pop icon Janet Jackson. Offering raw perspective on the journey that Janet has been on, the doc has been in the works for over three years. Opening to the world for the first time, the doc considers the tragedies, successes and most impacting moments that Janet has been through thus far.
Amazon Africa HQ dispute
Amazon has plans to expand their headquarters (HQ) to Africa, but a lawsuit from descendants of South Africa, like the Khoi and San, are urging to stop construction of the new space on what they consider sacred land. The new HQ will be built in Cape Town, with the project scheduled to see the development of a hotel, retail offices/ homes and with an Amazon. Khoi and San leaders have criticized the construction as the site of the new HQ would be built at the meeting of the Black River and the Liesbeek, sanctified to both groups.
39 people presumed missing from human smuggling
The United States Coast Guard patrolled the ocean off the coast of Florida on January 25 in search of 39 missing people. The missing individuals are believed to be unaccounted for due to human smuggling.
A good Samaritan found one survivor floating atop an overturned boat 45 miles east of Fort Pierce. The survivor stated that he was accompanied by 39 other people who left the island of Bimini, off the coast of the Bahamas, on the night of Saturday, January 22. Due to intense weather conditions, the vessel had overturned. He, too, reported that no one was wearing life jackets.
This comes after the Coast Guard and the Royal Bahamas Defense Force diverted 88 Haitians a massive freighter on Friday, January 21 close to Great Inagua in the Bahamas. The same day, the Coast Guard informed that 32 people were liberated from another nullified boat 5 miles west of Bimini.
NYPD officers killed in Harlem shooting
Friday January 21 two New York Police Department officers were fatally shot after responding to a domestic disruption in Harlem. The officers, Wilbert Morea and Jason Rivera, were both in their 20s. Rivera died during the shooting, while Morea died on Tuesday January 25 after going through surgery.
The funeral for officer Rivera was held on Friday January 28, where he was advanced to Detective 1st Grade. Rivera’s widow, Dominique Luzuriaga, spoke heart wrenching words about her husband and their life together thus far. “I would say good morning to you all, but in fact it’s the worst morning ever. Today I’m still in this nightmare I wished I never had.”
Luzuriaga spoke on the heartache she went through after recognizing her husband’s death. She said, “I couldn’t believe you left me. Seeing you in a hospital bed wrapped in sheets, not hearing you when I was talking to you, broke me. I asked why. I said to you, ‘Wake up, baby, I’m here.’ The little bit of hope I had that you would come back to life just to say goodbye or say ‘I love you’ one more time has left. I was lost. I’m still lost.”
Snowfall overwhelms the East Coast
The weekend of January 29 left the East Coast engulfed in snow. Record snowfall counts were reported spanning the region in sections of Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Blizzard warnings were in full affect in locations such as Massachusetts and Maine. The storm tuned “bomb cycle” left around 16 million facing winter weather alerts.
Traffic collision in North Las Vegas leaves 9 dead
Saturday January 29 a car crash involving six automobiles in North Las Vegas resulted in the death of nine people and one known person in critical condition. Witnesses reported that a Dodge Challenger ran a red light and was traveling “at a high rate of speed” according to local authorities.
15 people were mixed up in the crash, and it is unknown if the Dodge Challenger driver was amongst the nine who died. Alexander Cuevas, public information officer for the North Las Vegas Police spoke on the crash, stating, “We have not seen a mass-causality traffic collision like this before,” as claimed by ABC News.
Rihanna announced pregnancy
It was discovered earlier that global superstar Rihanna is pregnant with her first child. Her baby bump was revealed when she was photographed with boyfriend A$AP Rocky in his hometown of Harlem. At the time, the couple was seen holding hands, with Rihanna wearing a long pink puffer jacket adorned with jewels over her stomach.
The couple went public in November of 2020, and have grown closer since the pandemic, after being friends for several years. Both have separately talked about wanting kids together at some point, with Rihanna suggesting she wanted kids before she turned 42. According to MSN, she once stated, “I’m a Black woman. I came from a Black woman, who came from a Black woman, who came from a Black woman, and I’m going to give birth to a Black woman. It’s a no-brainer. That’s who I am. It’s the core of who I am in spirit and DNA.” No other information on the pregnancy has been released.
Historically Black universities receive bomb threats
January 31, one day preceding the beginning of black history month, an array of historically Black universities were posed with bomb threats. Around six schools were threatened, including Albany State University, Bethune-Cookman University, Bowie State University, Delaware State University, Howard University and Southern University and A&M College.
The FBI was made “aware of the series of bomb threats around the country and we are working with our law enforcement partners to address any potential threats,” as communicated by the bureau in a statement. Investigations continued through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to ensure the safety of all.
Each school answered to the threats differently, with some urging students to stay put in a safe spot until further information was made available. Other schools cancelled classes fully and others went straight into lockdown. By around afternoon Eastern time, a vast majority of the HBCUs raised their lockdown orders.