Heavy rain and gales with gusts of more than 100 mph brought travel chaos back with trains canceled. Commuters took advantage of the weather to extend festive breaks at home. Meanwhile the MET office issued red and amber weather warnings indicating severe or hazardous weather with potential to cause danger to life or widespread disruptions…” So ran an item in yesterday’s Daily Mail.
By whatever name, it evidentially rained all over the UK, parts of the United States and a whole bunch of places other than Canaries, Soufriere, Bexon and Fond Street Jakes—to quote a long-ago-departed Englishman-Looshan, the owner of this country’s first TV station, who quite often filled in as newscaster when regular personnel were not available.
Come to think about it, Rainstorm Ubiquitous would be as good a name as any for the Grinch that this year stole Christmas from Saint Lucians when most of us were distracted.
Not to downplay the loss of life, as random as that has become, but I can’t help wondering how many more must die before the authorities quit treating every problem as if it were just another street in need of major repair: throw some black stuff into the tyre-eating gaping potholes, run some heavy road-repair equipment over it and hope constituents continue to be stupid-faithful enough to believe their road has been resurrected when in fact it has only received a cheap facelift.
I ask you, dear reader, what is this region of ours if not prone to hurricanes, heavy rains, storms of every variety and intensity, gale-force winds, mudslides and earthquakes? For crying out loud, a long time ago this lump of volcano vomit, not just its two most famous peaks, should’ve been declared a heritage site. Maybe then we’d have been forced to protect it from ourselves and the inevitable consequences of spitting in the face of Mother Nature.
I mean, since our forebears had decided this was the safest place in the world to lie down and multiply, and then convinced us to follow in their muddy wake, shouldn’t we have learned by this enlightened time not to mess with the environment? That by continuing to do so we are inviting chaos on our own unprotected dumb heads?
What’s the point in bragging about our two Nobel laureates and the quantity of bananas we produce—or used to produce—annually when in over 200 years we’ve not been able to come up with a single idea that might’ve given us a small chance of handling a half day’s worth of rain without sacrificing our main highways at the worst possible moment, without most of our banana trees being washed to the sea, to say nothing of homes, newly built as well as rickety?
How long has it been since Ravine Poisson handed us the worst of wake-up calls? What have we learned since then about what causes landslides?
Why has it never occurred to us that denuding our mountainsides and wherever else trees and grass grow is equal to spitting at the sky? Why do we continue to believe that turning what rivers we have left into disposal units for all varieties of garbage is a STEP in the right direction?
What will it take to make the Bexon River a tad less unfriendly? What’s the point in de-silting our streams after every disaster but never doing anything about the source of the silt?
As for notorious Fond St. Jacques: how many more times must that community experience deadly disasters before we take a life preserving decision about its future as a residential area?
Several years ago in Los Angeles, the authorities introduced particular building codes that have rendered the city almost impervious to earthquakes. Oh, but I seem to have invited a digression: believers in belief who insist earthquakes and mudslides and rivers overflowing their banks are all God’s way of teaching us lessons, divine wake-up calls . . . and other such gibberish.
The same specially-connected people, when it’s convenient, will remind us lesser mortals that “God helps only those who help themselves,” which would explain to regular people, not the lesser gods, why a day’s rain can flatten half of Saint Lucia.
Remember when that factory building in Bangladesh collapsed last year? Some eleven hundred people lost their lives. God’s will? Maybe. But undeniably God had much help from the building’s corrupt owners, the construction company that built it, and others who didn’t care a damn about placing countless lives at risk if in the process they further bloated their own personal bank accounts.
When will we discover the courage to demand answers from our builders of flimsy bridges and roads that cave in under the slightest downpour?
When will our people understand there’s a heavy price to be paid for continuously dumping waste into roadside drains, rivers and the sea? Why can’t the government put its bone-idle army of consultants to work on our perpetually clogged drains?
Let me acknowledge that even the most developed countries from time to time suffer the killing consequences of natural disasters. It is also indisputably true that Mother Nature is always kinder to areas where inhabitants adhere to disaster mitigation practices.
Why do we continue to erect in residential areas utility poles that are not only eyesores but also disasters waiting to happen? How often are our bridges checked by recognized experts for hairline cracks, accumulated hidden debris and so on? When was the last time someone appeared before a magistrate for littering?
What do we have in place for rescuing individuals in trouble who cannot be reached at ground level? Once again, I am reminded of Hannah Defoe, who was unaccountably electrocuted more than a year ago in the swimming pool of a Vieux Fort hotel. Yes, a man-made disaster (but who can say for sure that God didn’t play a hand there too?).
Doubtless, the young woman believed the laws and regulations enacted in the best interests of hotel guests had been adhered to. In short, Hannah had obviously placed her trust in the authorities.
Her grieving relatives would discover, too late, the deadly truth: the system set up to protect citizens from both natural and man-made disasters has nearly always been itself a self-policed disaster. Even now, Hannah’s relatives cannot learn from the government how it was possible in simply beautiful Saint Lucia, proudly Number 22 on the list of the 100 most corrupt nations, for an inviting swimming pool suddenly to transform itself into an electrified watery grave.
Already, some of what we’ve been getting from our watchdogs at NEMO regarding the latest storm to strike us is coming under fire. Was the official silence a deliberate calculation that yet again went awry?
You know, like VAT?