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Are You Prepared for a Disaster - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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We woke up last Thursday morning in Los Angeles to the terrifying tremors of an earthquake that measured 5.4 on Richter scale that shook the entire city.

As soon as the shock wore off, I spent my time monitoring the damages caused by the quake and the activities of the Emergency Services in California, which is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone regions.

When the dust settled, there were no serious injuries or damages, due to divine intervention and the technology used within these buildings to prevent such losses and injuries. However, Californian officials urged for more preparations as the worst is yet to come!

A question came to mind; God forbid, are we prepared for all natural disasters in our region, especially bearing in mind that the number of natural disasters has more than tripled in the last thirty years, while the number of victims is five times greater than that of the previous generation?

Reports also show that in 2006 natural disasters affected over 135 million people; with materiel damages estimated at about US $35 billion. What is also a cause for concern is that 6 out of 8 major world cities are located in earthquake-prone regions, six of which are in coastal areas and may be subjected to the dangers of rising sea levels.

In the aftermath of the tropical Cyclone ‘Guno’ that hit the Sultanate of Oman, I heard from an Omani official who stated that according to British documentation indications are that this wasn’t a new phenomena, and that in fact Muscut experienced a similar cyclone a hundred years ago.

Have we seriously taken our region into consideration, in view of all the expansion and building projects over the years as we wait (God forbid) for nature to take its course, instead of the fruitless competition of who’s the first, highest and fastest? Have we learned from the disasters we’ve experienced, natural or otherwise?

After a 7.9 Richter scale earthquake hit Japan last month, it became apparent that preparations, awareness campaigns and lessons learned from past experiences, contributed to reducing the size of the damages and losses.

To provide evidence of our situation take into account the words of Dr. Mohamed Fawzi, director of the Egyptian Crisis and Disaster Management, in an interview with “swissinfo” where he said,” have you ever seen schools participate in a mock fire drill, or if the firefighters know where water hoses are? Or if the water taps are operational?”

Dr. Fawzi added, “If you look at the terrorist attacks that took place in London; the injured who survived the attack were going out to safety in a row (organized straight line).” When he asked one of them, he was told that’s what they were taught back in their school days.

Dr. Fawzi went on to say, “We have a long way to go, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and these steps began years ago.”

Have we taken the first step?

To answer, look at the buildings around you and observe how quickly firemen and rescue vehicles respond and whether our children or elderly have been safely evacuated or not!

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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