News Watch

On Feb. 22, Russian president Vladimir Putin recognized two regions in eastern Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk, as independent ethnically Russian states. The next day, the Russian military invaded Ukraine on multiple fronts, shelling and bombing major cities, including the capital, Kyiv. At press time, only one major city, Kherson, was confirmed by Ukrainian authorities to have fallen to Russian troops.

Sources for casualty numbers varied wildly, and neither civilian nor military...


A landslide and flash floods killed at least 176 people in the eastern Brazilian city of Petrópolis on Feb 16, with more than 110 people still missing at press time. The city received as much rain the day before as it typically receives in the entire month of February.

The hilly city, north of Rio de Janeiro, is prone to landslides, the worst recorded incident having occurred in 2011 when more than 900 were killed.

Northern Europe, particularly the United Kingdom and Ireland, experienced multiple major, named storms in February. It was the first time since the current storm-naming system went into effect, in 2015, that three such storms occurred within a week in that region.

On Feb. 18, Storm Eunice made landfall, with wind gusts of up to 122 miles per hour. Between the countries of Ireland, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands, the storm killed at least nine people. Millions of people...


An earthquake measuring 6.2 in magnitude occurred in the mostly rural southwestern Guatemala region on Feb. 16, killing two people and triggering landslides that blocked roads. Two aftershocks measuring more than magnitude 4 followed, with no further reports of damage.

A fire broke out on the car deck of a Greek ferry traveling from the city of Igoumenitsa, northern Greece, to the Italian city of Brindisi on Feb. 18, killing at least one person and injuring five others. Ten people were still missing at press time. The Greek coast guard rescued 277 passengers and crew. The fire continued for three days despite efforts to put it out. Investigations into the cause were ongoing.

The first case of wild polio identified in Africa since 2020 was found in a 3-year-old girl in Malawi. The continent was declared polio-free in 2020 after it had been five years since the last identified case, in Nigeria, was resolved. Malawian authorities are increasing vaccination in the area and isolating anyone exposed, to limit the infection.

Wild polio is endemic to only two countries in the world: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Testing of the Malawi infection showed that it was...


The US Department of State posts up-to-date travel advisories on every country and many territories, ranking each 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions), 2 (Exercise Increased Caution), 3 (Reconsider Travel) or 4 (Do Not Travel). Note: A country’s regions are also ranked and may have different rankings than the country as a whole. Visit and click on “Travel Advisories” at the top of the page.


An undersea volcanic eruption in Tonga on Jan. 15 caused a tsunami that hit coasts on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, killing three people in Tonga and completely destroying coastal communities there. More than 6,000 miles away in Peru, two people were killed by tsunami waves.

The eruption plus the tsunami, which peaked at 49 feet in Tonga, cut off all communications to and from the country, with only satellite images showing the damage in the days following the event.