At least 16 people are reported to have died in Peshawar after the city was lashed by 42mm of rain, accompanied by strong winds over a period of one hour on the afternoon of August 15. Four children died when a seminary’s roof collapsed, while others died in separate incidents involving the caving in of roofs and the collapse of walls as the downpour struck. We are, of course, familiar with such accounts of post-rain havoc. Such incidents take place virtually each monsoon season.
Perhaps, some of these incidents are unavoidable. Man cannot, after all, control the forces of nature, and at certain times, they unleash an untamable fury. But we do know that in our age of scientific progress, it is possible to forecast rain and to, over a longer period of time, take measures to ensure buildings are safe, electrical installations in good order and vulnerable areas made more secure. The provincial government needs to oversee this task, but essentially, it should be the concern of relevant departments and the city authorities that must work in coordination with the meteorology office and other bodies. For instance, under existing rules, dilapidated buildings must be repaired by owners. This, of course, holds all the more true for buildings, such as schools and seminaries, housing children as well as public buildings of all kinds. Unfortunately, these rules are rarely followed anywhere in the country.
We also need to ask what the role of institutions such as the National Disaster Management Authority and the provincial authorities working under it should be. These institutions were set up to help ward off disaster through better preparedness. This preparedness does not seem to be there. A little over an hour of heavy rain should not have caused the degree of mayhem we have seen in Peshawar. The fact that it did is something to think about very deeply so that we can prevent the loss of lives that could have been saved. The death toll is far too high and could have been avoided.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2014.
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