If only we listened to weather alerts


Forewarnings about the El Nino rains clearly did not forearm us as intended if the impact by the rains is anything to go by.

From the havoc that the rains are meting across the country, one could easily think that they quietly creeped on us. Like we did not seem to see the clouds gathering, lightning flashing and thunder roaring as the rains approached from a distance. Yet, all these warning signs were there for all to see, from the repeated alerts from scientists that were publicly communicated and in good time. For good measure, there were even delays in the projected onset, as if to buy us more time to put our houses in order. But did we even pay attention?

What did we do, instead? Rather than stepping up our preparedness to ensure that all stops were pulled to keep everyone safe, we chose the easier path of casting doubts on the scientists’ forecasts and then breaking into early celebrations that culminated in a high-profile withdrawal of the warning. Until the rains struck, and we all started acting surprised, and as expected they are spreading great harm. People are dying, property is getting destroyed and washed away and infrastructure is completely cut off. Not to mention the ever-present risk of waterborne diseases.

The chorus of mitigation measures that were being touted by authorities when the warnings first came out, while outlining elaborate plans to minimise suffering must have just been a ruse – a good thing to say in the moment. Or the funds that were said to have been set aside for use must have been quickly redeployed.

How else do you explain the seeming lack of preparedness? To the extent of an expectant mother having to brave the danger of a flooded river to get to hospital to give life. Is it that no one thought that there could be a plan to help individuals get to hospital across the river, despite the situation? Or to clear drainages to minimise destruction and other such measures?

Not that it is the first time that this is happening in the country. In years past, we have had a taste of the wrath of the rains, and this should have served as a reminder of what we need to do so as not to find ourselves in the same situation, ever.

We never learn from experiences. Some of these risks are being treated casually, perhaps because only the poor are vulnerable to them. Any declarations being made now are just afterthoughts. The situation needs more than just talk since we had an opportunity to act to show the commitment but blew it away. Or maybe it did not seem like a wise investment.

Surely, even if the heavy rains had failed as forecasted, the investments would not have gone to waste. It would have still been a good deal for the future, especially in flood-prone areas. Our systems would be better prepared to deal with the deluge.

It is a shame that we are not taking advantage of early warning systems. Of what use does it benefit us to invest in technology if we are not going to make use of the outputs? We are so insistent on staying in a dark era when we can enjoy the marvels of light.



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