RELIEF, in whatever form, for flood victims is something to be commended and so today we single out all of the citizens, organisations, and businesses that have sought to assist the thousands who have fallen prey to this national disaster.
With each day, more horrific details emerge of the ordeal many endured over the weekend. Greenvale residents have spoken of removing ceiling tiles and seeking refuge in roofing. Some had to even attempt to break free in order to avoid drowning, as hours passed with no sign of any form of intervention by the authorities.
“I really thought I was going to die,” said Denesh Lakhan. “I couldn’t get to dry ground until 5.30 am the next day. I stayed for five hours inside the ceiling. I really thought I was going, but eventually my neighbour came to help me.”
Though we are sure there were many instances of unheralded bravery and efficacy on the part of State agencies, many reports paint a worrying picture of a response system that was simply overwhelmed and that did not have the resources necessary when faced with floodwater that had risen to a height taller than a man.
Reports like those from Greenvale point to a nervous breakdown of the emergency response system. Persons were left stranded for hours with little choice but to brave dangerous currents to escape. Lessons must also be learned from the aftermath in places like Madras, Kelly Village, St Helena and Warner Village where hundreds of volunteers answered the call to offer assistance.
What should have been a simple case of supply meeting demand in countless acts of charity soon became an uncoordinated traffic nightmare. Efforts were duplicated and those most in need left wanting. While the Office for Disaster Response and Management (ODPM) ostensibly coordinated the response, there was no one to direct volunteers.
With so many ordinary citizens bearing the brunt of this natural disaster, now is not the time for political gimmickry. Blaming the state from behind gift bags for perceived shortcomings makes the gesture nothing short of crass. At times like this, our politicians should be offering relief and comfort. They should be crossing party lines to give and to encourage the maximum the State could afford in the circumstances.
They should be inspiring hope and seeking to understand together the causes of the problems we face in order to enact solutions. After decades, and successive governments, we are yet to get a handle on the fallout that happens after heavy rain. How can this be? Thus the need for maturity on the part of our leaders.
Surely the time has come for an inquiry into the causes of flooding with a view to devising enduring solutions. Such an inquiry should furthermore examine the response agencies and their ability to effectively manage the multifaceted issues that arise in the aftermath of any natural disaster.
Some may well seek to opportunistically open political floodgates, but they should be warned that flood water does not care which party is in power. Nor does it stop to ask drowning citizens who they voted for.