Disaster management: How prepared are we? — Tay Tian Yan

NOVEMBER 1 — What can we do in the face of a major disaster?

This is a lesson Malaysians have to learn.

The water cuts in Selangor and the fire at JB's Sultanah Aminah Hospital are different in nature, but they are all disasters.

When a disaster strikes, the first thing some people will do is to look for the scapegoat. For instance. Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali asserted that the river pollution causing the water supply disruption was the work of Umno, without offering any evidence.

That was an act trying to avert public attention, and frustration. I'm not sure how people will actually believe in him, but even if there some, what can be done? Can that solve the problem of water source contamination?

Of course not. Moreover, this kind of things will keep happening in the future, and could get worse perhaps.

We don't need an environmental expert to tell us that our river pollution has been present for many years and is getting really serious now. Many factories dump their wastes into the river, including toxic metallic wastes.

Residents living beside the river are used to throwing all their household garbage into the river too, in particular squatters and migrants. These people know nothing about environment preservation, and we don't have garbage trucks to come in and remove the rubbish, either. The easiest way to dispose of the garbage is to throw everything into the river, including human excrement.

Most of the rivers in this country have been seriously polluted, some already dead. Some of these rivers pour into the ocean while some end up in our dams to become our drinking water.

Both federal and state governments are well aware of the potential risks. Not only is the water supply affected, it could even trigger a major water quality disaster.

The question is: Other than finger pointing, what else can the federal or state government do?

Factories continue to pour their wastes into the river, and residents continue to dump their rubbish and excrement there too.

No preventive measures have been taken by the government, and when something bad happens, people will start to look for convenient scapegoats.

What we have today is only water supply disruption, not any major environmental disaster. We are indeed lucky enough.

The fire at HSA, to a certain extent, was also an accident, but behind the accident is the severe problem with our antiquated medical facilities, wiring, and lack of safety measures.

Sure enough the hospital is old, but the problem lies in the fact that we lack the concept of maintaining and rejuvenating our outdated facilities. Old things are bound to give problems, and to prevent them, we need to maintain them properly.

There are tons of older institutions in the world, including hospitals and universities, but they remain reliable and safe today because of regular maintenance and rehabilitation.

Anyway, the effort of HSA staff and fire and rescue dept personnel in tackling the disaster has been highly commendable. Many doctors and nurses were risking their lives to rescue those trapped in the fire. — Sin Chew Daily

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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