February 16, 2021
16-Feb-2021

AMERICAS

Mexico (Security threat level – 4): On the evening of 15 February 2021, Mexico’s state-owned Federal Electricity Commission reported that power has been restored to 79% of about 4.7 million customers in the northern states of Chihuahua, Durango, Sinaloa, Sonora, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon, all of which were affected by blackouts. Additional outages occurred in the states of Hidalgo, Mexico, Morelos, Puebla, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, and Veracruz, as well as in Mexico City. The National Center for Energy Control (CENACE) began implementing rolling blackouts during the evening of 15 February to compensate for limited electricity supply. According to CENACE, 40% of Mexico’s electricity is generated by natural gas, most of which is imported from the U.S. The outages began in the late morning hours of 15 February after the U.S. cut the natural gas supply to Mexico due to increased demand in the U.S. caused by severe winter weather.

United States (Security threat level – 2): As of the morning of 16 February 2021, an unprecedented winter storm is causing widespread power outages and travel disruptions across the southern region of the U.S. In the state of Texas, where a disaster declaration is in effect for all 254 counties, more than 4.2 million homes and businesses are without power. The Houston metropolitan area and nearby Galveston Island in particular are experiencing widespread power outages. Both airports that serve the Houston metropolitan area — George Bush Intercontinental Airport (KIAH/IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (KHOU/HOU) — halted flight operations on 15 February and urged passengers to refrain from traveling to the airports. George Bush Intercontinental Airport is currently closed through at least 1600 local time (2200 UTC) on 16 February, whereas William P. Hobby Airport is closed through at least 1200 local time on 16 February. Meanwhile, in Austin, the state capital, airport officials canceled all flights scheduled to operate through Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (KAUS/AUS) on 16 February; the airport was also closed the previous day. Elsewhere in the state, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (KDFW/DFW) and Dallas Love Field (KDAL/DAL) are currently open and operational; however, significant flight delays and cancellations are likely. Most flights scheduled to operate through the two Dallas-area airports were canceled the previous day. As of last report, more than 2,300 flights were canceled countrywide on 16 February and an additional 300 flights were delayed.

Meanwhile, in the state of North Carolina, a powerful tornado struck southeastern Brunswick County near Grissetown, located approximately 45 mi (70 km) southwest of the port city of Wilmington, shortly before 0000 local time (0500 UTC) on 16 February. The tornado destroyed at least 50 residences and downed trees and utility poles, leaving thousands of residents in the area without electricity. At least three people were killed and 10 others were injured due to the tornado.

ASIA

Myanmar (Security threat level – 4): At approximately 0900 local time (0230 UTC) on 16 February 2021, the government restored internet access after blocking it for about eight hours for a second consecutive night. In related developments, demonstrators gathered in cities nationwide to protest the 1 February military coup. In Yangon, security forces cordoned off the Central Bank of Myanmar building, where demonstrators had gathered the previous day, and monks gathered near a U.N. office. In Mandalay, approximately 3,000 student protesters marched through the city amid a lesser security presence than on the previous day. There were no reports of violence at any of the demonstrations.

Vietnam (Security threat level – 3): As of 16 February 2021, a 15-day-long coronavirus-related stay-at-home order is in effect for the northern Hai Duong province. Residents may only leave their homes for essential purposes, such as to obtain food or medical care, or for work. Additionally, gatherings of more than two people are banned and social distancing of at least 2 m (6.5 ft) is mandatory in all public areas.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iraq (Security threat level – 5): On the night of 15 February 2021, militants fired a total of 14 rockets toward a U.S. military base at Erbil International Airport (ORER/EBL) and multiple other areas of Erbil, the capital of the northern Kurdistan region. Three of the rockets landed inside the airport grounds, while at least one other landed in the nearby Naz City neighborhood. A civilian contractor was killed in the attack. In addition, a U.S. soldier and eight civilian contractors were wounded. Authorities closed the airport and roads leading to the facility overnight on 15-16 February following the attack; however, flights at the airport are operating as normal as of the afternoon of 16 February. A Shiite militant group called Saraya Awliya al-Dam claimed responsibility for the attack.

Analyst Comment: While militant groups — particularly groups linked to Iran — routinely fire rockets toward U.S. military bases and diplomatic facilities in central and southern Iraq, such attacks in Kurdish-majority northern Iraq are rare. The latest attack in Erbil is the first such event to occur in the city since September 2020.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

South Africa / Zimbabwe (Security threat levels – 4 / 4): On 15 February 2021, South African authorities reopened more than 20 land border crossings with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe, which have been closed since 11 January in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Inbound travelers to South Africa are required to present results from a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of entry and install the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app. Any individual who attempts to enter South Africa with a counterfeit COVID-19 certificate will be barred from entry for at least five years.

Zimbabwean authorities announced on 15 February an extension to the existing nationwide lockdown until at least 1 March, as well as several changes to current restrictions. The nightly curfew is now in effect from 2000 to 0500 local time (1800 to 0300 UTC); the curfew was previously in effect from 1800 to 0600 local time. Additionally, businesses may now operate from 0800 to 1700 local time, an extension of two hours from what was previously permitted. A ban on social gatherings remains in place, with exceptions for funeral processions in which up to 30 attendees may be present. Commuting between cities and provinces is banned, and land borders remain closed.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Greece (Security threat level – 3): On 16 February 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Athens issued a Weather Alert, which reads in part as follows: “According to the Hellenic National Meteorological Service, dangerous weather conditions are expected through Wednesday, February 17, 2021. In the Attica region, snowfall is expected to be dense at times through the night on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. The General Secretariat of Civil Protection has issued a strong recommendation to avoid unnecessary travel in the Attica region.

“The U.S. Embassy in Athens will be closed Tuesday, February 16, 2021 due to the inclement weather. All appointments for visas, passports, and other consular services have been cancelled and will be rescheduled.”