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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Exposed and humbled

A boat sits wedged in a tree by a Pearl Street home in Biloxi which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. -www.nola.com(Times-Picayune)

It was a surprising sight on television -- the spectacle of the world’s mightiest power laid low and humbled by the elemental forces of nature.

The winds and rain of Hurricane Katrina killed thousands of people, devastated about US$100 billion in public and private property and flooded a vast area of the American South.

What has been called America’s deadliest natural disaster in a century also brought out the lack of preparedness of a superpower that could invade and overrun another country thousands of miles away in a matter of days.

Food, water and medicines were unavailable for days for tens of thousands of evacuees in crowded, sweltering evacuation centres. Law and order broke down, and looters, killers and rapists, particularly in New Orleans, roamed and operated at will until the National Guard belatedly stepped in and restored some semblance of order.

The entire debacle saw the United States failing its first major test after putting up new security arrangements since 9/11.

What are the lessons of Katrina?

The first is environmental:
One cannot fool around with the environment and not expect it to hit back with destructive fury. It’s the law of ecological karma.

American columnist Ross Gelbspan said, “The hurricane that struck Louisiana and Mississippi was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service (but) its real name was global warming.”

The unabated use of polluting fossil fuels has caused global warming and many scientists fear that the world may have entered a period of irreversible climate change.

We can feel it here in the Philippines where typhoons have become stronger and more destructive, where the level of floodwaters is constantly rising and where sometimes the weather is reversed, with rains falling in usually dry months and drought occurring in usually wet months.

The second lesson is the need for preparedness.

It cannot be said that the United States was not warned about the coming of Katrina. Days before it finally struck land, TV stations were running hourly bulletins about Katrina.

In the meantime, very little was done to shore up installations or board up buildings.

Ultimately, in some areas in the direct path of the hurricane, boarding up would have done little to mitigate the damage. The hurricane was so fierce and powerful that it mowed down everything in its path.

But the death of thousands could have been prevented had they been evacuated before the hurricane. Some people thought evacuation was not necessary.

In the face of an impending natural disaster, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

The US government should have been prepared to cope with the logistical nightmare of moving tens of thousands of people, feeding them, providing them with clean water, clothing them, giving them temporary shelter and ministering to their medical and health needs.

New Orleans pointed up the lack of preparedness of the government.

The third lesson of Katrina is the need to study scenarios of the aftermath of a disaster, prepare for the relocation of people and the reconstruction of their homes and infrastructure.

In this regard, American officials would do well to study the rehabilitation and reconstruction work being done by Indonesia in Aceh and Nias, two of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami last December.
You can read the full article in ANN


  • It certainly is an eye opener!
    I don't know if it has anything to do with global warming or not, but they have been predicting a disaster like that to happen to the gulf coast for a while.

    By Blogger riskybiz, at 11/9/05 06:10  

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