Urgent appeal

Homes are flooded on Salinas Beach after the passing of Hurricane Fiona in Salinas, Puerto Rico. AP PHOTO -
Homes are flooded on Salinas Beach after the passing of Hurricane Fiona in Salinas, Puerto Rico. AP PHOTO -

PAKISTAN has been devastated by severe flooding. Homes have been swept away. Schools have been destroyed. Around 33 million people have been affected, including 16 million children. It is estimated that 1,500 people have died and 1.7 million homes have been swept away.

The cause? Heavy monsoon rains. Rivers breached their banks, dams have overflowed, farms, roads, bridges, hospitals damaged.

On Monday, Unicef issued a special emergency appeal for donations. The situation is so dire that even local Pakistani officials have issued a call for assistance.

We should do what we can to assist Pakistan in its time of need. During the covid19 pandemic, we have seen the vital role played by cross-border charity as it relates to vaccine supply.

Who knows when our time will come? Last month’s flooding due to adverse weather was an ominous sign of future possibilities, a future which may be even more immediate than we reckon.

After unleashing more rain on Puerto Rico on Monday, knocking out utilities, triggering landslides and flooding on the island, the first major hurricane of the season, Hurricane Fiona, on Tuesday turned its attention to Bermuda. The Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos Islands had already been battered.

After Fiona, the region will have little time to recover.

On Wednesday, meteorologists warned a system east of the Windward Islands is poised to develop into a storm, potentially becoming a concern for the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, a new tropical depression has formed over the open North Atlantic.

The hurricane season is expected to be particularly active this year. But while, after a slow start, things appear to be conforming with expected patterns, the same cannot be said about the impact of climate change on the weather both regionally and internationally.

Climate scientists have estimated Pakistan’s floods were made up to 50 per cent worse by global heating, which has brought more intense rainfall over a shorter period. It is not hard to imagine the fingerprints of this phenomenon being a global event.

Careful study is needed of local conditions, but it is clear that even average rainfall events can trigger widespread woe and misery, challenging the most ambitious infrastructure maintenance programmes.

The current impasse over local government funding, with claims and counterclaims, does nothing to prepare the country for the worst possibilities. It is a distraction, as well, from more productive activities that need to be undertaken, such as the clearing of waterways and the tighter regulation of waste disposal.

If we need to take it upon ourselves to assist countries in need, we also need to look closer to home, literally, to examine our own habits and the ways in which we might be contributing to potential environmental disaster.


"Urgent appeal"

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