Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Nigerian Irene comparison

Oka Obono writes an editorial in Business Day (Nigeria): According to the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD), Nigeria has the highest flood-related mortality rate on the continent. Heavy rainfall is accompanied by the fall of heavy tears as people mourn friends and family members who needlessly perish in her raging floodwaters. It is a governance challenge.

Over the weekend, world scientists and politicians watched carefully as Hurricane Irene made a beeline for the United States. Obama cut short his vacation to lend presidential weight to evacuation plans that were more or less standard protocol. He encouraged New Yorkers and people in the two Carolinas to take Irene seriously, to stay out of harm’s way. The situation demonstrated the use of empirical meteorological data in official planning; a conjunction in which one community generates early warning of impending disaster while another provides an effective early response to it.

...In New Jersey, where the last deadly storm hit in 1903, Governor Christie reported the evacuation of more than a million people and deployment of 1,500 members of the National Guard. Princeton University made contingency plans for staying open and possibly closing. In New York, Mayor Bloomberg shut down the subway and related city services. People stayed indoors.

In Nigeria, by contrast, an untenable complacency was the response to warnings of Irene. This routine attitude, which is the leading cause of the nation’s security predicament, was on full show. When it mattered most, there seemed to be no coordination between the meteorological services and political leadership....

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