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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jeddah: A Drowning Bride

"Three things it is best to avoid: a strange dog, a flood and a man who thinks he is wise." - Welsh Proverb

Surely, not in anyone's wildest dreams that this day will come. People wade in chest-deep water for hours scampering for anything to grip not to get swept away. SUVs, small and big vehicles, and even huge dumpsters race like sailboats through the direction of the torrents. Abandoned vehicles literally clutter  many parts of the city due to conked out engines hit by floodwaters. Even alley cats can be seen putting up a fight for a piece of plank to hold on for their lives. "The bride of the Red Sea is drowning!", screams an English daily. And  those who have experienced firsthand of getting drifted by the flood and survived, will live to tell that climate change could possibly be a fact and not a product of any moronic mind.

Today, I received a text in Arabic from the Civil Defense. I immediately concluded that it is a warning for every resident in the city, but I had no idea what was happening outside because I did not go to work knowing it had rained.  I would later find out that the city is again inundated by floodwaters, and many roads and highways were rendered impassable due to rising water.  News outfits even carry headlines of people getting electrocuted due to exposed electric wires,and students continuously held up inside school premises because there was no transportation available. Even ambulances mobilized by the Civil Defense to carry the injured to hospitals were marooned in flooded streets. It was also reported that five historical buildings in the historic district of Balad succumbed to the massive rain and collapsed. Even in our area of Faisaliyah District, the famed Bicycle Roundabout (Darrajah Circle) hosted cars in its sloped pedestal. Drivers opted not to take risks braving the rising water or else car mufflers get submerged in water. At the moment, some of my friends here in Jeddah have not reached home yet. Some have opted not to brave waist-deep waters and decided to take shelter to a safer place till the water subsides. And the real bad news is, weather forecasts warn of another three or four days of continuous downpour that is a real cause of concern for all.

It sounds absurd that Jeddah, a typical desert city that prides itself of its reputation of being the hottest city in the kingdom the whole year round, is drowning. And residents are still reeling from that similar tragedy in November 2009 that had claimed 123 lives that either drowned in their homes or trapped inside their cars. Nobody had thought that an hour of downpour would cause apocalyptic destruction never before seen in this part of the world where rain is sometimes obsoleted for its eternal absence. Yet, with all the chaos and panic this calamity brings, it is heartwarming to know that most people rise up to the occasion to help those who are in trouble. If there are still skeptics out there of this global phenomenon, I think this is one hell of a story to convince people that climate change is unarguably a fact and that it is no piece of hearsay concocted by those who refuse to heed the signs of the times.

Being a Jeddah resident for almost a decade, I always get thrilled everytime I hear about rain. In the summer months, you don't see as much green vegetation in the surroundings because of intense heat, plants just wither prematurely, and trees shedding leaves to conserve little water left of them to be able to survive. Others gave way to burning heat and die. Stray cats in their hundreds fall dead in their thirst. I don't even imagine going to work waiting for taxi in the street when mercury is at its peak. So winter time supposedly is a worthy respite from the cruel summer months that are longest in Jeddah. Though most people here are accustomed to the desert heat in the summer, I guess this unwelcome phenomenon in the colder months has already sent chills to Jeddah residents not wanting to experience again the brunt of nature's fury. In Brazil, floodings and landslides had already claimed over 600 lives. In Queensland, Australia, people are grappling to come to terms with  floods that inundate towns and cities. It is happening everywhere, this time nothing is exempt from this global phenomenon.

Granting there is still hope, if people forget themselves and put an end to greediness, a miracle could be just around the corner waiting to happen. From our unwillingness to cut down on our personal carbon footprints, to the corruption in every government, all of these contribute to the worsening climate change that could effectively exterminate every living being in many years to come. It was proven that corruption was the real culprit behind the deaths of 123 people who drowned in the November 2009 Jeddah flooding,  because city funds that supposedly were allocated to build a modern sewage system in that depressed part of the city were pocketed by some city officials. And the king was quick to order to put behind bars those who were found  culpable. Today's headline hopefully will not be duplicated  by tomorrow's  or in the coming days. But based on weather forecasts, similar weather pattern ominously threatens to prevail over the next few days, and that is not a pleasant thing to anticipate. This is all I can do,  pray for all my friends that they may be safe and learning from this experience. Let's pray and hope for a safe and flood-less 2011!

Most of the pictures here courtesy of Enrico Gonzales Celdron via  "Thoughtskoto" .


DonPepe1972 said...

This was the worst flooding I have ever experienced in Jeddah. It seems like we all need to learn how to swim well, Earth's changing so quickly.

NFB said...

Well, it's only a matter of time before it gets worst. Patikim pa lng yan. So brace yourself!

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