Stories about disaster management

Chilean miners: A lesson in giving a damn

The joy that the families of the rescued miners in Chile experienced after their members were winched to the surface from a two-month ordeal of being trapped in a coal mine was shared by millions across the globe. And then there was no looking back. As the news poured in on the television screens, it was a delight to watch the happy faces of hundreds of Chileans who had gathered to greet the trapped miners. Even the presence of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera could not lessen the deafening noise of cheers, applause and horns on the sight of every ...

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The sound of a million voices

This Eidul Fitr, some colleagues and I decided to spend the day at a relief camp in Makli, Thatta. Though it sounds terrible given the sufferings of millions around us, the decision to part with the delicious food, deserts, social gatherings and lastly Eidi was a tough one. Nevertheless, having kept only a few fasts during the month of Ramazan, the opportunity to redeem myself seemed too good to pass by. Upon entering the camp, the magnitude of the tragedy that had hit our nation began to sink in. The task at hand was evident and after discussing the most ...

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What about our children?

I have witnessed many traumatic images in my few years as a media professional. However, the image of children watching their parents run after helicopters as they drop sacks of food, fighting and injuring each other in the process, is disturbing to say the least. Even writing about it pains me deeply. Penning my thoughts brings back images of some of the most inhumane images I have seen; especially, during the recent coverage of the devastating floods. I wonder what children go through when they witness their parents scuffling for food. Even as an adult I have trouble coming to terms ...

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When desperation knocks

Delivering flood relief is half the job. The other half should be the restoration of human dignity. Flood victims look hopefully at each relief truck that passes by willing to run for miles until it stops. The people have genuine grievances too. They want to know when they will find their 7-year-old child who went missing 3 weeks ago. They want to know why their NIC reads that they have been born 5 years ago due to a typing error and thus are deprived from  getting rations in lines that demand to see identification. They want to have clean ...

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Can Pakistan learn from Katrina?

This weekend, as my home state of Mississippi prepares to memorialise the five-year anniversary of America’s worst natural disaster, Pakistan will mark a month since the start of the floods. Because of this post-Katrina milestone and my upcoming travels to Karachi, I’ve been considering the scope and response to both of these catastrophes. The two floods have superficial similarities, despite the fact that Hurricane Katrina was a smaller event in a better-equipped country. This means that on the fifth anniversary of Pakistan’s worst natural disaster, things will probably look even less rosy than they do now in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina formed ...

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Packaging hope in the flood crisis

Reminiscent of the spirit of volunteerism witnessed in the wake of the 2005 earthquake, scores of youngsters are gathering at Imperial Lawn at Shahrah-i-Faisal since the past two weeks to pitch in their part to help the 20 million affected by the floods that have wreaked havoc across the country. The spirit at the ground where packing of relief goods was taking place was infectious. One was automatically drawn into the swarm of people who were moving about in circles collecting supplies from the stalls lined around the ground and depositing them at the packaging table. To use the words of ...

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How NGOs can really help

Although Pakistan has a long and tragic history of devastation through natural disasters, the Government has never developed any substantial programs to prevent or monitor the possibility of future destruction. Pakistani and international NGOs as well as international donors are often left making up for the incompetence of national institutions, raising funds and resources to save the poorest of the poor in dire situations. Currently, international aid to Pakistan is arriving slowly, but it’s clear that a substantial amount of money will be coming into the country in the next few weeks or months. Most people who have donated to ...

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The mathematics of disaster

Can anyone – anyone at all – in this country do some simple math? The Pakistani premier, Yusuf Raza Gilani (whom I imagine all those wonderfully enlightened Zardari-bashers will vote for in the next election, given how badly they wanted someone on the ground, overlooking the relief efforts… what’s that? You don’t vote at all?) has said that 132,000 square kilometers of Pakistani territory has been affected by these floods. According to Wikipedia, Pakistan’s total territory cover 803,940 km-sq. Sixteen percent of our total landmass is currently inundated with water. And that’s just KP and Punjab. By the time that flood hits ...

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Floods make victims vulnerable to Taliban risk

As the country is waking up to one of the most devastating floods of its history the response of the rescue and relief agencies has been slow to say the least. The death toll has crossed the 1,000 figure and the number is still rising.  According to the UN, almost one million people have been affected. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the province already facing the brunt of war against militancy and terrorism, has suffered the most from these floods. Areas as far as the tribal agencies in the west have been inundated and with the poor structure of governance prevailing there rescue and ...

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Victims need action not rhetoric

According to the government, around 800 people have died in floods that have struck Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Around 270,000 people have been affected by floods in Balochistan, more than 15,000 houses have been destroyed and 25,000 families in Naseerabad are homeless. While we sit in the comfort of our homes up to 300,000 people remain without food and shelter, struggling to get to higher ground with what little is left of their belongings. I can only wonder what we are to do for our brothers and sisters who no longer have homes to go back to, who are without food and ...

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