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Let’s learn from Harvey experience

Published: 
Friday, September 1, 2017
Chris Douglas, left, and Raymond Hanks help Joe Brooka get to his flooded home to retrieve his insulin medicine yesterday in Port Arthur, Texas. AP PHOTO

Thousands of people in Houston, Texas, are just beginning to piece their lives back together following the passage of Hurricane Harvey. Yet there are many more of them, including natives of T&T, who are still not in a position to do anything as the after effects of one of the most devastating storms to hit the United States in decades lingers and continues to hamper clean-up operations.

Apart from the path of destruction it lay, Harvey has so far been blamed for the deaths of 31 people and rescue teams believe there may be many more still unaccounted for who might not have survived the storm. Crews yesterday began hopeful block-to-block searches of tens of thousands of flooded Houston homes in search of survivors.

Altogether, it is being reported that more than 1,000 homes in Texas were destroyed, close to 50,000 damaged and more than 32,000 people are in shelters across the state. The magnitude of help needed has forced the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deploy some 24,000 National Guard troops to assist with the recovery process.

The T&T Guardian extends condolences to those who have lost loved ones due to the storm and a speedy recovery to the injured, as well as God’s speed to the rescue teams searching for survivors and helping the affected.

The question that now arises though is how Harvey could have wreaked so much havoc to the fourth-largest city in one of the most developed countries in the world? Truth be told, there is little humankind can do to stop nature.

Harvey initially came ashore as a Category Four hurricane in Texas, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days, inundating flood-prone Houston. The five straight days of rain that came with the weather pattern totalled close to 52 inches, making it the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the United States.

Essentially, none of the mechanisms in place to prevent flooding, including dams, were able to prevent the deluge. Still, while the damage may take weeks, months or even years to rectify, the emotional and economic toll on those affected by what has occurred may takes decades to resolve.

In this regard, there is much to be learned from the Harvey experience for T&T. This country has been fortunate in recent years to be spared major hits from any of the major natural disasters passing through the region. The very recent occurrence of Bret has shown that even when we are barely touched the effects can be devastating enough to cause major disruptions.

It is essential that the authorities at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) take a very close look at what is occurring in Texas and, more importantly, take critical notes on the manner in which emergency bodies there have been mobilising and responding to thousands of emergency response calls.

When Bret hit T&T in June, a lot was said about the need for greater co-ordination between the various units responsible for emergency response, as well as the lack of proper equipment to deal with some of the situations which arose. The hope is that these issues have been rectified since the hurricane season is not yet over.

God forbid that this country ever has to deal with a situation like in Texas. Every effort must be made to ensure that T&T has a good chance to mitigate against some of repercussions of such natural disasters.