The Houston Flood Disaster

I begin with something I picked up from Facebook, from one who is not my favourite person, yet who this time was spot on in her remarks: Hillary Clinton. “Like many of you, I’ve been following the news coming out of Texas with a heavy heart this week. The damage and destruction left behind in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is devastating, and my thoughts are with everyone affected. We’ve also seen some incredible acts of kindness. From the rescue workers and volunteers who have gone without sleep for days, to Texans of all ages setting out in boats and kayaks to rescue their neighbors, to elected officials on the ground working together to put community ahead of political party, the best of America has shown up in Texas.

I cite this quote, whilst there is so many other sources to choose from, because it illustrates empathy and compassion can come from many quarters and many of Hillary’s biggest detractors would concur with the sentiments expressed and of the kindness shown. While as a write the story is no longer headline news and the hurricane and the news have moved on, the damage arising from the hurricane was devastating and the aftermath will be felt for a long time to come, with a massive restoration program ahead of us. There is plenteous evidence that many people were involved in the rescue operation and helping those affected, and this irrespective of race. It is marked contrast to a little while back when the news was about the violence in Charlottesville and the racism that was engendered.

There are many aspects of the story that could be covered, like could things have been done better. It appears the Mayor of Houston ignored advice, maybe for political reasons, but the governor of Texas, along with federal support he had requested, did as much as could be expected to avert an even worst disaster and provide the help that could be reasonably expected. Hitting me from a number of angles was the story of Joel Osteen, a pastor of a large Houston mega-church, not making his church premises available and practically helping the victims. While I have little doubt he was unfairly criticized, I also regret he was not as pro-active in helping when he could have, but then again there is always those who help and those who don’t.

Never far from the headlines was the President himself and unsurprisingly he received criticism like not visiting the victims when he had the chance, making the disaster too much about him and his agenda and that his recent Executive Order to lower environmental constraints on infra-structure project has been shown up as flawed, and of course the matter of climate change. I felt the President did well. He acted quickly and made available what help he could in a timely way (as acknowledged by the governor). He also was quick to visit many involved in the relief operations, show empathy and ensure they had what they needed.

This was a mega event, making one realize how beholden we are to the ferocity of nature. It was also one that could have turned out catastrophic and thanks go to the professionals and volunteers from all sections of society for their fantastic efforts and averting a worse disaster. A sobering thought is there is another natural disaster taking place at the same time in South Asia, with a far greater death toll, and this has hardly been reported on by western media. Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected. One feels powerless but we can all do acts of kindness and realize there is more to unite us than to divide.


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