At midnight tonight, 2011 will come to an end. Taking a look back, the year has been filled with civil wars, arrests, deaths, violent storms and flooding, financial woes and bailouts. However, the year has also seen some exciting scientific and medical advancements and happier occasions. Let’s take a look back, month by month.
The year kicked off January 1, with Estonia adopting the Euro currency, the 17th nation in what is called Eurozone country. Southern Sudan held a referendum on independence opening the door to the July birth of the new state. Brazil was inundated with flooding and devastating mudslides. In Rio de Janeiro the death toll climbed to 903. After a month of escalating violent protests, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia ending the 23 year reign of the Tunisian government. The Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia became the scene of an horrific bombing which left 37 people dead and 180 more wounded.
Political chaos continued in the month of February as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned amid protests. His departure left the control of Egypt in the hands of the military unit until a general election could be held. Crude oil prices surged by 20% in only a two-week period as uncertainties in Lybia caused people to worry about Libyan oil output.
March roared in making its presence known with a 9.1 magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami which hit Japan. The death toll was a staggering 15,840. Still 3,926 are missing. This triggered earthquake warnings to be issued in fifty nations and territories. Four nuclear power plants hit by the Tsunami found themselves in a state of emergency. In Bahrain, King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa declared a three-month state of emergency as troops from the Gulf Co-operation Council were sent to put an end to civil unrest in the nation. In response to allegations of government aggression against Libyan civilians,the United Nations Security Council created a no-fly zone over Libya. The vote in the council was unanimous, 10-0. Shortly after the vote, the UNSCR 1973 authorized military intervention as a response to the attacks on Libyan rebel forces by those who supported Muammar Gaddafi. French fighter jets began to make reconnaissance flights over Libya.
April was not a good month for former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. He was arrested in his home in Abidjan by supporters of elected President Alassane Ouattara and the support of French forces. This brought an end to the 2010-11 Ivorian civil war.
Though first quarter of the year had been plagued with revolutions and uncertainty, in April, the world focused its attention on a happier occasion filled with hope, the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine Middleton. The London Westminster Abbey nuptials were estimated to have been watched by two billion people world wide.
On May 1, a long-awaited announcement was made by Unites States President Barack Obama: Osama bin Laden was dead. He was killed during an American military operation inside Pakistan. Others celebrated the arrest of Ratko Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb Army commander who was wanted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. May also saw the European Union agreement to rescue the nation of Portugal with a huge bailout.
June burst into the year as Chile’s Puyehue volcano erupted. It’s impact reached much farther than many imagined it could. South America and New Zealand were forced to cancel air traffic. More than 3,000 people fled their homes. Meanwhile, tensions in the middle east continued to be in upheaval. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh traveled to Saudi Arabia for treatment of an injury he sustained during an attack on the presidential palace. His opponents took to the streets celebrating his transfer of power to his Vice-President And al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi. Seven days later, thousands of Syrians fled their homeland to Turkey to escape the troops who had lain siege to Jisr ash-Shugur.
July brought new medical hope as the world’s first artificial organ transplant using and artificial windpipe coated with stem cells was achieved. In Serbia, Goran Hadzic was detained and became the last of 161 people to be indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Bad news came as the United Nations declared southern Somalia to be in a state of famine. It was the first in over thirty years. Many were upset as the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed successfully at Kennedy Space Center after completing STS-135 which concluded NASA’s space shuttle program. Horrifying news blared across the world from Norway: twin terrorist attacks – a bombing in the Regieringskvartalet government center in Oslo and a shooting at a political youth camp on the island of Utoya. Seventy-six were killed. In Thailand, the month ended with 12.8 million people being affected by major flooding which affected 58 of the 77 provinces of the nation. The World Bank estimated damages from this event at $45 billion. It is worth noting that five months later, the year 2011 closes with some of the flood ridden areas still under six feet of water. It has reached catastrophic heights as factories remain closed. The flooding was responsible for the deaths of 790 people. Things in Syria continued to be in a state of uncertainty. A clamp-down had been made on the free press making accurate news to be difficult to get. It is believed that at least 121 people were killed when Syrian Army tanks raided the town of Hama. The total dead in Syria may never be known, however, the estimated number hovers around 3000.
August brought news from far away as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was reported by NASA to have captured photographic evidence of possible liquid water on Mars during warm seasons. Also, the first solar-powered spacecraft on a mission to Jupiter was launched from Cape Canaveral. The craft was named Juno. Back in Libya, in the Battle of Tripoli, rebels seized control of the nation’s capital. The government of Muammar Gaddafi had been toppled.
While earlier months of the year had been rock by civil wars and unrest, India and Bangladesh ended their 40-year border demarcation dispute. Saddness gripped the nation as 240 people died in the sinking of a Zanzibar ferry sinking. In Kenya, approximately 100 died when a petroleum pipeline exploded in Nairobi. The UN launched a$357 million appeal for the victims of the Sindh floods in the nation of Pakistan.
All hoped October would prove less deadly. However on October 4, 100 people were kidded in a car bombing in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. More fatalities were reported in October, as the death toll from the flooding of Cambodia’s Meking River. However, Israel and the Palestinian militant organization Hamas began a major prisoner swap. Captured Israeli Army solder Gilad Shalit was released by Hamas in an exchange for 1027 Palestinian and Israeli-Arab prisoners who were being held in Israel. From Libya, news came of the death of Muammar Gaddafi. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Turkey. 604 died. The European Union continued to deal with financial woes. In an emergency meeting in Brussells, they agreed to tackle the European sovereign debt crisis. This included a writedown of 50% of Greek bonds, a recapitalization of European banks, and an increase of the bailout fund for the European Financial Stability Facility. On Halloween, October 31, global population reached seven billion according to the UN. UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member .
Science was back in the picture in November as the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity was launched from the Kennedy Space Center. It is the most elaborate Martian exploration vehicle to date and is slated to land on the planet Mars on August 5, 2012. So we have something to look forward to.
In December on the 15th of the month, the United States formally declared an end to the Iraq War. One day later, Washi, a tropical storm cussed 1,249 fatalities due to flash flooding in the Philippines. The death toll was probably higher as the number of missing remained at 1,079. December 29 was not a day that time stood still, but it certainly was one that made time disappear. Samoa and Tokelau moved from east to west of the International Date Line. For these islands, there will be no December 30 in 2011. Samoa and Tokelau wanted to align their time zone to mesh better with their main trading partners.
Wouldn’t it be nice that if among all those resolutions people make on New Year’s Eve, that peace and harmony could be on the list. May we all have a happier new year.
Photos throught the story and on the cover:
Photo 1: Prince William and Kate Middleton. Credit: Julio
Photo 2: Muammar Gaddafi. Credit: No copyright
Photo 3: The night of the death of Osama bin Laden. Credit: No copyright.
Photo 4: Tsunami
Photo 5: Mars Rover. Credit: Public Domain
Photo 6: Chilean Volcano. Credit: Girard Prins