The turn of the new decade was harsh for Haiti, a small Caribbean country and the poorest one in the West. After suffering from decades of economic and political turmoil, with 70% of the population living in poverty, the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake worsened their sufferings. On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck with a strong earthquake, with an epicenter west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. It killed more than 316,000 people, with several hundred thousand more injured, and nearly 1.5 million people left homeless.
Even though many countries swung into action to help the citizens recover, giving every kind of aid, the island struggled to recover. Six months after the quake, hardly any of the vast rubble of buildings were cleared. Nine months after the catastrophe, a million refugees still live in tents. And even after ten years, the nation still hasn’t fully recovered from this disaster.
Fukushima nuclear disaster
After a disastrous 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the east coast of Japan, it triggered a 50-foot tsunami, which caused multiple reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant to lose power. The tsunami and the earthquake triggered a meltdown at the power plant, causing a modern-day Chernobyl. It was the second-worst nuclear accident in history, next to the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
More than 100,000 people were evacuated, leading to more than 2,000 deaths. Approximately 18,500 people died or went missing due to the quake and tsunami, and more than 160,000 were forced to evacuate their homes. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the plant, spent months denying that a meltdown happened, causing an increase in public mistrust.
Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappears
While traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (MH370) went missing mysteriously on March 8, 2014. Contact was lost with the plane as it flew over the South China Sea for about 38 minutes after takeoff. The world was transfixed because of this mysterious event, and people were awash with wild theories that might explain its disappearance.
Despite the best efforts of Malaysian authorities to insist the plane would be found and all passengers and crew were still alive, soon it became clear that it was either an accident or mass murder. The search ended in 2018, and this mission was the costliest in aviation history. While aviation had a long history of planes disappearing mysteriously on a flight, none of it was on the scale of the MH370 mishap, especially now that we have more advanced satellite communications. Eventually, pieces of the plane were found washed ashore in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Madagascar, but the bulk of the aircraft and the bodies are still missing.
Death of Osama bin Laden
One of the most defining moments of Barack Obama’s presidency was the death of Osama bin Laden, the leader behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. After the attacks, bin Laden went into hiding, with the US in hot pursuit, until he was eventually located by US intelligence. In May 2011, almost ten years after the terrorist attack, bin Laden was found in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The US Navy SEALs’ “Operation Neptune Spear” team killed Osama bin Laden, as well as a number of his family members and other al-Queda members.
Prince Harry marries actress Meghan Markle
About 30 million viewers (plus the rest of the world) tuned in to watch the royal wedding of the decade on May 19, 2018, when Prince Harry married his American bride Meghan Markle. It was a historic wedding because it’s rare to see a British monarch marry a commoner, albeit a foreigner and a divorcee. The love story enchanted the entire world, making Markle a real-life fairy tale princess. Shortly before the wedding, Queen Elizabeth gave the couple their new official titles as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
However, Meghan and Prince Harry recently split from the royal family in March 2020 and stopped representing the Queen to become financially independent.
Rescue of miners from the Chilean mining accident
On August 5, 2010, 33 miners were trapped at a cave-in at a copper-gold mine in Copiapo, Chile. After the mine collapsed, these men were trapped half a mile underground for 69 days. As a true testament to the strength of the human spirit, the miners sent videos to the surface via a mini-camera.
Their eventual rescue happened after two months, which involved NASA, which was watched by over a billion people worldwide. All 33 men survived and were rescued to safety in a rescue mission that took about 24 hours. The trapped miners practiced a one-man, one-vote democracy to work together to maintain the mine, find escape routes, and keep up morale.
The rise and fall of ISIS
In 2014, the Islamic State, known as ISIS, became known around the world for committing heinous acts of violence and terrorism and posted them online. The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq had its roots in al-Qaeda, but it was too extreme for the organization. On June 29, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi announced the formation of his caliphate from Aleppo, Syria, to Diyala Iraq, and named it ISIS.
In 2015, ISIS expanded to a network of affiliates in at least eight more countries, and its branches and affiliates carried out attacks beyond the borders of the caliphate. It was responsible for the numerous civilian attacks from 2015 to 2016, including the bombing of a Russian airplane, series of attacks in Paris, and a nightclub shooting in Orlando. The Baghdadi era of ISIS ended under Donald Trump’s presidency when the leader was killed in a US raid in Syria in October 2019.
In a bitterly fought referendum, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016. About 51.9% of the UK voted to leave the EU. The move could not have been imagined ten years ago.
The deal, which was called Brexit (short for British Exit), led to the resignation of British Prime Minister Theresa May and the election of Boris Johnson. The British government formally announced the withdrawal of the country from the European Union in March 2017, beginning the Brexit process.
Start of Arab Spring
During the spring of 2011, a surge of pro-democracy and anti-government protests took place across the Middle East and African countries that saw leaders overthrown. It took place in primarily Muslim countries, which first began in Tunisia and spread to Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Palestine. It is estimated that more than 61,000 people died during the Arab Spring events, many of which have turned violent.
The protests were ignited by an act of defiance when a street vendor from Tunisia set himself on fire to protest random seizing of his vegetable stand by the police due to lack of a permit. While Tunisia saw some improvements after the uprisings, violent protests in Libya and Syria escalated into full-blown civil wars by 2012. Since 2011, more than 5.6 million Syrians were forced to leave the country, and thousands died on boats trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
The Ebola virus epidemic in Western Africa became one of the most widespread outbreaks of the Ebola virus disease in history, which caused a significant loss of life and economic disruption in the region. In 2014, the outbreak started in the rural southeastern Guinea, which quickly spread to the neighboring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone. The spread was partly due to poor surveillance systems and poor public health infrastructure.
The World Health Organization was declared as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) for its risk of global spread. And as predicted, it spread to other countries, such as Italy, Nigeria, Mali, Spain, Senegal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. More than 11,000 people died from the virus worldwide.