Wednesday, November 9, 2011

And the windows of the heavens were opened and rain fell upon the earth

Last week in Genoa, six people died due to rivers overflowing. Some were children. It’s hard to believe that something like this could happen in this day and age – people died because it’s raining. It’s humbling isn’t it? 
No matter our advances in technology and communication, no matter how evolved we are, how large our brain stems, nature is always stronger, faster, and mightier than we will ever be. I’d like to comment on how people reacted on the news (negatively, and oh so stupidly) to the events, but I won’t cause otherwise it seems I’ve always got it in for Italians and I really don’t, many more people were altruistic, helped out, made intelligent, compassionate comments and generally behaved decently and like human beings. There are always a few bad apples, right? So I’m going to focus on something else related to this tragedy.

The thing that amazes me about Italy is that (as far as I know – I’ve been accused of generalizing) they don’t do an awful lot to prepare people for natural disasters. I remember when I was in school in America we had fire drills, and talks about what to do if a hurricane or a tornado hit, if there was flooding. Parents were encouraged to make emergency plans with their kids, where do you go, who do you call, establishing a family meeting point – I don’t know if schools in Texas still do all this, but I think it’s pretty important.
Granted there are no tornadoes and hurricanes in Italy, but there are earthquakes and there’s flooding and I’m sure there are a whole host of snow related emergencies in mountain areas and yet they don’t teach kids (or adults for that matter) what to do. Schools don’t even have fire drills. Sure, all buildings here are made of cement or brick and mortar not wood, so there are fewer fires in general, but it’s not completely unheard of, I can’t even imagine the panic that would ensue here with no plan in place in case of a fire in a public building.

A mother and two children who died in Genoa last week ran into a building when they saw the waters rising thinking they’d be safe. When rivers flood waters rise very quickly, so they ran into the closest building and closed the entrance door. But they didn’t go up. So the force of the water blew open the door and (I’m assuming) they drowned. Some kids tried to get to safety by going in a basement.

Six (or seven, reports are sketchy) people died. Many people in the media here (and on the street) are blaming the government, blaming the rampant unregulated construction. It’s true, surely these things are somewhat to blame. In fact, did you know that in Italy most people will build without a permit and then wait for something called the “condono”, which basically is something that happens every few years in which the government says oh, ok fine, here’s your permit for this building, house or whatever you built with no permission, pay a fine. Ridiculous. Everyone just does whatever the hell they want and wait to get approval post factum. This is related because unregulated construction is part of the problem with flooding rivers apparently.

Anyway, back to the flood. A host of different things could have been done differently to prevent this, but it’s easy to point fingers after the fact. Natural disasters happen, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, damns break, lighting strikes… shouldn’t the very first step be teaching the population a few basic survival techniques to face them? If there’s flooding go up, don’t sit on the bridge with your iphone filming it. Talk about it in schools, write articles on what to do in the event of this or that apocalyptic scenario, talk about it on tv. And have drills because when people are in danger, they panic and often don’t think straight, or they sit and stare incredulously at what’s coming at them without trying to get the hell away, but if they know what they’re supposed to do they at least have a fighting chance against nature. That’s what our government can do for us. People need to be taught how to react in case of emergency, any emergency, and they need to be taught to listen to the authorities telling them what to do when in the midst of one instead of just doing whatever the heck they want. 

I’m pretty sure our public schools and our public television can spare some resources to educate the public on safe emergency procedures, after we’re done, you know, talking about whom our prime minister is sleeping with of course.

Natural disasters happen, whether we provoke them or not, the key is being prepared. So let’s hope we can stop the finger pointing long enough to educate people and coordinate our resources so that, not if, but when this happens again the casualty count will be zero. There will always be damage to property and infrastructure when things like these happen, but I’m pretty sure we can count ourselves lucky if no one dies because it rained too much. 

So, Italian Government, please, do something to educate us, to prepare us because knowledge is power, even over nature sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. We just saw this on the news and our hearts broke!  We were just there a few months ago and it was so sad to see all of the destruction.