Anatomy of a disaster

Ej Lopez

Ej Lopez

The rush of emergency activities that the country has sporadically experienced brought about by the epic disaster the past month or so that started with that strong tremor, has exposed the country in a very compromising position and uncovered its relative weakness in dealing with natural disasters of this magnitude. Government control that is supposed to highlight the strength of leadership character was wanting in essential performance, and this was particularly reflected in the breakdown of law and order, particularly in areas not reached by assistance. Days have passed but nothing was done to access the localities that are in dire need of the basics. Yet government press releases stated otherwise. Tons of relief goods, multitude of emergency assistance, and the outpouring of foreign immediate relief goods and services have been delivered to the country, yet nothing has been heard of because those reached by the media have not been identified and assisted by the government. Lately, criminal activities have already been committed at will like rape and robbery, because of the absence of government control in some localities ravaged by the typhoon. Delivery of life saving assistance that should be the topmost priority in such kind of condition in strategic areas are almost always inappropriate, resulting into a monumental disorder, such as massive looting that should not have occurred had the government been truthful in its promise of prompt support.

Perhaps due to the gigantic catastrophe that leveled off many of the usual progressive provinces in the Visayas, the government leadership seems awed and struck (or shocked) by the magnitude that it did not know how to respond to this kind of natural dilemma. Despite being hit by calamities before, it seems that prior experiences did not edify anything that will help us deal with these types of events. In the meantime that no specific system that will bring back order to the current problem in the typhoon-stricken areas, people have to wait until a system of distribution is in place. Despite the outpouring of assistance which they have been calling for this literally outpoured in the warehouses, it has remained undistributed to people who are in dire need of assistance. This slip has been observed even by the foreign press, because these lapses were apparent and visible even to ordinary viewers.

Of course, the tragedy was unprecedented in local history but this should not be an excuse to escape responsibility from all that should have been done to ameliorate the plight of the victims. Prior to the tragedy, authorities have even warned of the seriousness of the tragedy to come yet, even they have now realized of their unpreparedness to face this kind of calamity. Perhaps because of frustration, authorities have even resorted to finger pointing short of saying that Yolanda’s destruction was the result of local officials’ incompetence. In the meantime, Yolanda’s victims will have to bear with their hunger, thirst and fear for personal safety until such time that a more efficient system of distribution is formulated, which unfortunately was never realized six days ago. It seems that despite the expected seriousness of consequence of this typhoon prior to its landfall, the extent of preparation was not meant for this large-scale devastation, and yet authorities were tough in its pronouncement of preparations for the people but never for themselves. I hope that it will not take another Yolanda or a 7.5-tremor to happen before we become fully prepared for these eventualities and not caught flatfooted because of mere lip service preparations. In the meantime, the victims will have to bear with their hunger, thirst and other dangers that accompany this monumental catastrophe.

Foreign aid
The outpouring of foreign aids coming from both allied and non-allied countries are overwhelming and heartwarming at the same time. This has more or less reflected a product of the relationship we had developed with other countries, and the diplomatic accords we have established through the years. The continued assistance has somehow eased the burden of pain and agony experienced by the people severely affected by the onslaught of the typhoon. Never in our time that a gathering of nations of this magnitude was assembled to generously assist a disaster-stricken nation. Although no country would want to be in our position at this point in time, the mere kindness extended to the country at the time most needed illustrated that international diplomacy transcends conflicts and misunderstandings that usually happens among friends.

Even China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, with whom we recently had diplomatic spats, was there to assist us. It may not be the right incident, but we hope that with the recent transpiration of events, we could bring back the usual cordial relationships we have established among these countries; after all, we live in a very small world where cooperation among nations will always be a factor for everyone’s growth.

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