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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion
Catastrophic storms in US, lessons not learned
    2017-October-16  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Paul Kay

paulkaylc@live.com

ON Aug. 29, 2005 the strongest storm in U.S. history at the time, Hurricane Katrina, made a landfall on the southern part of the country, affecting the U.S. State of Louisiana and in particular the city of New Orleans. A total mismanagement and lack of preparation in the relief efforts in response to Katrina resulted in over 1,200 deaths of civilians, some of whom remained in New Orleans without water, electricity, food or shelter, even dying of thirst, exhaustion and violence days after the storm had passed. The roles of the local, state and federal government in the preparation for and response to Katrina were questioned and criticized.

Now, 12 years later on Aug. 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey brought a catastrophic path of damage, destruction and flooding to portions of southern Texas as a Category 4 monster storm. Many coastal cities were badly affected by widespread damage to infrastructure and residential and commercial buildings. One of the worst-hit cities was the fourth-largest city in the U.S., Houston, which was almost entirely flooded.

Followed by hurricanes Irma, Jose and then Maria devastating the Caribbean, one cannot help asking what lessons, if any, were learnt from Hurricane Katrina 12 years prior to this date? Facts that seem to be ignored are, for example, that Houston is a large metropolitan coastal city, and hurricanes develop at sea near Houston. The region’s topography is also abnormally flat, slowing the flow of floodwaters back into the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes of the past had previously hit Houston with devastating results.

If not prepared 12 years ago, what have the local, state and federal governments learnt and done to ensure the safety of the residents during this season’s hurricanes? What new and effective infrastructures have been built, what preparations and precautions have taken place to avoid detrimental run-off, protect electrical generators, strengthen levy structures, and last but not least, engineer and install electrical and light poles strong enough to withstand a hurricane force? Why doesn’t, for example, the U.S. Government bolster its reservoirs, buy and preserve wetlands and give incentives to farmers to harvest their land, rather than sell it to developers?

Harvey starkly exposed the inadequacy of Houston’s and the country’s flood management strategy, both in terms of flood control infrastructure and flood prevention policies. Authorities should have seriously considered that Houston is flood-prone because it’s subject to frequent high-intensity rain events, its soil tends to shed water rather than absorb it, and the region has a flat topography. Why there is so much ignorance, inefficient and ineffective red tape and bureaucracy in all branches of the government, resulting in repeated failures and causing irreplaceable losses? At what point will leaders learn and practice responsibility and absorb accountability within the U.S. Government at local, state and federal levels?

More low-class characteristics pop up. During his first visit to the disaster-hit area after Harvey, U.S. President Donald Trump elected not to interact face to face with victims and was instead in the company of his wife Melania, who was in fashionable high heels while supposedly visiting flood zones. He was wearing a cap bearing his logo together with his wife, and at the same time advertising those hats for sale on his website for US$45!

The only positive note during the flood was at the grass-roots level, as people of all walks of life helped each other: strangers giving hand to strangers, fostering a sincere sense of humanity.

Storms, natural or manmade, bring the best and the worst out of people. Mismanagement and abuse of authority signal that lessons from previous disasters were not learned, and as a result human lives were jeopardized in supposedly the most advanced country in the world.

(The author is a retired American educator with a Ph.D. in business administration residing in Shenzhen.)

 

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