Fires, floods, and plague—these were the hallmarks of 2020. The dark dawn of the new decade will mark a pivotal historic moment in more ways than one. It was a year of compounding disasters and tragedies; a year in which the world felt, on numerous occasions, like it was coming to a dystopian end. And now that year is finally over.
As 2021 beckons before us it’s worth taking a moment to pause and reflect on one of the most turbulent 12-month periods in recent memory.
Australia was among the first countries to usher in 2020, as one of the largest wildfires in the Earth’s history swept across the country, spewing smoke that enveloped neighbouring New Zealand. Just hours later, Indonesia commenced the year amid devastating floods in the capital of Jakarta, killing at least 66 people and displacing some 60,000.
Looking back now, it’s easy to interpret these Biblical disasters as the first ominous warning signs of a year marked by tragedy. But the seeds of 2020’s most devastating calamity had already been sown.
By the end of December 2019, at least 27 people in Wuhan, China had been diagnosed with a novel coronavirus that, within 12 months, would touch every country in the world, infecting more than 73 million people and killing more than 1.6 million. Borders were closed, planes were grounded, roads and streets were emptied as people shut themselves away in state-enforced isolation, and the collective noise of humanity’s seismic activity quietened to the lowest level on record.
This eerie “wave of silence” was countered, however, by the roar of collective action, as millions of people around the world mobilised against police brutality, racism and encroaching authoritarianism. 2020 was indisputably the year of COVID, yes. But between the global Black Lives Matter movement and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy backlash, it was also a year of sectarian violence and protest.
Many of these issues are ongoing, and will continue to beleaguer societies around the world well into 2021. The suffering isn’t over, but 2020 is, so we’ve compiled some of the most shocking, surreal, heartbreaking and powerful photos from around the Asia-Pacific region to sum up the dystopian year that was.
The following images are from Getty’s Year in Review collection.
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