2017: A Year Marked by Disaster, Violence

30 December, 2017

The year 2017 has been a good year for bad news.

Media personality Marian Salzman called it a year of "disruption, despair and dumpster fires." In other words, it has been a difficult year, marked by violence, natural disasters and political disagreement.

Gun violence, attacks claim lives around the world

The year started off with bad news; a gunman attacked a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey, during a New Year's celebration. Thirty-nine people were killed and many more were injured.

A police officer looks at the photographs of the victims as two others stand guard a day after an attack at a popular nightclub in Istanbul, Jan. 2, 2017.
A police officer looks at the photographs of the victims as two others stand guard a day after an attack at a popular nightclub in Istanbul, Jan. 2, 2017.

Vehicles were used as weapons in several major attacks this year.

A truck bombing in the Somali capital, Mogadishu claimed hundreds of lives. In June, a truck was also used in an attack in Westminster and London Bridge in London, killing eight people. Similar attacks took place in Stockholm, Sweden, Barcelona, Spain and New York City.

In each case, extremists were blamed.

Terrorists targeted Egyptian Coptic Christians in two attacks in April. Then, in November over 300 people were killed in an attack on a Muslim place of worship in continuing religious violence in Egypt.

In Britain, a suicide attack killed 22 people in a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Shooting violence again left a mark of tragedy in the United States. In November, a man opened fire in a church in rural Texas, killing 25 people.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, a gunman aimed at a nearby music concert from a tall hotel building, killing 58 people. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Storms, fires, quakes leave costly damage

Natural disasters were also notable. Three powerful storms struck the Caribbean Sea and the southern United States in a short period of time.

Hurricane Harvey struck the city of Houston, Texas, in August, causing widespread flooding and damage. Two other hurricanes, Irma and Maria, struck Caribbean islands, the state of Florida and the southern U.S. More than three months later, tens of thousands remain without power on the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

Powerful storms also struck the Philippines and Vietnam, bringing with them damage and heavy loss of life.

Wildfires proved to be costly and dangerous events. Fires burned large areas in Portugal as well as in the central and southern parts of the state of California.

Paths of danger for civilians, refugees

Migration and refugees fleeing violence remained a major problem in 2017. Amnesty International estimates that 73,000 refugees from Africa and the Middle East tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. Two thousand refugees are believed to have died along the way.

News stories brought attention to the situation of ethnic Rohingya people in Myanmar. It is believed that 626,000 people have fled to Bangladesh to escape ethnic violence involving the military in Myanmar.

Civil war in Yemen has brought hunger, disease and poor conditions to millions in the country. Saudi Arabia put in place -- and then promised to ease -- a blockade on the country's seaports and airports. The blockade prevents humanitarian aid from getting to Yemen.

Political crisis and change

The political crisis in Venezuela continues, as those opposed to President Nicolas Maduro have taken to the streets in protest. Large numbers have fled South America's most troubled economy in search of jobs in other countries, including neighboring Brazil.

In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was ousted in November after leading one of Africa's most economically troubled nations for 37 years.

In Spain, efforts by Catalonians to seek independence led to new elections and the ouster of the autonomous area's president. Pro-independence groups gained a narrow majority in the latest elections.

A similar vote for independence by the Kurdish area of Iraq resulted in the central government seizing oil producing areas. The Kurdish president resigned and the area government withdrew the results of the vote.

Sharp changes in policies

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 brought with it many policy changes for the United States.

Trump ordered strong restrictions on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries. He pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement with Pacific area nations. And in June, he said the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a non-binding deal to limit the rise in world temperatures.

Japan has sought to change its pacifist constitution to permit an expanded military. And South Korea permitted the deployment of the THAD anti-missile system over China's objection.

North Korea has raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula to a new level, with several long-range missile tests and a suspected hydrogen bomb underground explosion. In late November, North Korea tested a missile that is believed to be able to reach any part of the U.S.

Sexual wrongdoing accusations top AP's 2017 news list

The Associated Press says the biggest story of 2017 was the wave of well-known and powerful men accused of sexual wrongdoing.

The New York Times published sexual abuse allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein in October. In the weeks since, women and some men have publicly accused others in Hollywood, news media executives, politicians and more of sexual assault or harassment. Among the accused were Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer.

Millions of people around the world also used the hashtag #MeToo to tell of their sexual abuse experiences.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore were accused of wrongdoing, each by many women. Franken announced his resignation from the Senate while Moore lost the election. Other U.S. congressmen were also accused; some decided not to seek reelection.

And some good news too...

There was cause to celebrate this year in Nigeria, when more than 80 of the young women known as the Chibok girls were released. They had been held for more than three years by the country's Boko Haram Islamic extremist group.

Many of them have renewed their studies by attending the American University of Nigeria. The girls are said to be under the care of the Nigerian government.

Other positive developments include the collapse of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

And the U.S. economy continued to grow more quickly than expected. Joblessness fell to its lowest level in many years.

The good news has many people hoping for a better 2018.

You heard from Lucija Milonig, Jill Robbins, Jonathan Evans and Dorothy Gundy.

I'm Mario Ritter.

The Associated Press reported this story. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English using additional materials. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Dorothy Gundy produced the video.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

disruption –n. something that prevents some activity from going on in the normal way

dumpster fires –idiom a very bad situation

migration –n. to move from one country or place to another to live without intending to return

blockade –n. the act of militarily blocking off a place, city or country to prevent people or supplies from entering or leaving

autonomous –adj. having the right to self-government

non-binding –adj. not required by law

pacifist –adj. not accepting war as a possible solution

hydrogen bomb –n. an atomic bomb that uses hydrogen to increase the power of the explosion

assault –n. the crime of trying to or threatening to harm someone physically

harassment –n. to annoy or bother in a repeated way