18 November, 2007

Should A Cyclone or Tidal Wave Hit Mukalla!

Just when cyclone Gonu was about to hit Oman a few months ago, there was an alert out to people in Mukalla to take care too. One evening I was out shopping with my wife, policemen on motor cycles were cruising around the streets of Mukalla shouting at people to immediately move to high ground as there could be a cyclone coming. The cyclone, didn't hit Mukalla or any part of Hadhramout; but, one thing I noticed, was that - very, very few people responded to the police men's warnings. While I and my wife, immediately left the streets and fast went home which is higher, most people simply ignored the warning and went on with whatever they were doing. When we, I and my wife, were just about to reach home - the wind started blowing very fast and then there was a very brief, intense rainfall.

About two weeks ago, there was another alert that a storm or even a cyclone could hit Mukalla and other parts of the Hadhramout coast; a helicopter kept on continuously flying above the waters and coastline keeping watch. Again, too, I noticed that very few people bothered; people, again, simply carried on, normally, with whatever they were doing. I find this very disturbing indeed. I understand that the Hadhramout coast has never been hit by a devastating storm, cyclone or tidal wave before. Most people here, have no experience or knowledge of such a disaster except from what they watch or read on the news. But then, when it happens here as it did in Oman just a few months ago - the cost: human and material, will be disastrous and enormous.

As it is now - with all the changes in climate around the World and with the last Tsunami that caused so much devastation in South East Asia lightly affecting some parts of the Eastern coast of Yemen - it is not a question of if but it is a question of when will it happen. That thought greatly disturbs me. Not for my own personal safety only, but for the safety of the almost half a million people in Mukalla and around it. Mukalla does not have the facilities or the means or contingency preparations/plans to deal with even a minor disaster of such a kind; but worse, Mukalla's residents seem to be unconcerned and are not taking weather alerts seriously at all.

Waiting till after such a disaster happens and then 'waking up', will be too much of a price to pay and too painful. The authorities concerned can and will help; but the best and most effective help, will be that which is given and done by individuals and people; the best and most constructive of which is to take weather alerts very seriously and do all that one can, to protect and make safe oneself and those around. For we, the people of Mukalla to be so inattentive and unconcerned to such serious weather alerts, will one day - God forbid - be very painful and costly for us.