Editorial: Disaster Relief

After the horror of Hurricane Katrina indelibly left its mark on the national consciousness the previous fall, we all held our breath as forecasts predicted a very active season again in 2006. Fortunately, a collective sigh of relief was exhaled as the slow season passed without significant damage.

But unexpectedly, and therefore all the more sadly, nature’s deadliest storms came after the end of the hurricane season rather than during it in 2006. Most intimately for many UT students, multiple tornadoes rolled through Florida this past weekend scarcely a two hour drive from our very University. CBS News reports that 20 people were killed and hundreds of homes destroyed in this tragedy. For many students who received frightened phone calls from concerned parents asking about their safety, the experience only too painfully recalled the specter of Katrina.

Simultaneously, the worst flooding in over five years has crippled Indonesia’s capital. Several days of torrential rain has left 44 dead and approximately 340,000 homeless, according to the BBC. And unlike central Florida, Jakarta faces extremely difficult clean-up efforts, especially with more rain in the forecast over the coming days. Health officials have voiced concern that polluted waters could spark outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever, not to mention the bridle on efforts to curb the increasingly fatal bird flu.

South America has also experienced weather induced disease outbreaks. Governments in Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay have recently issued health alerts attempting to prevent the outbreak of dengue fever from developing into a regional epidemic.

The first month of 2007 alone has already seen more infections in south-western Brazil than all of 2006. The rapid spread of the disease is believed to be due to the unusually high rainfall of this past season along with abnormally warm weather which multiplies mosquitoes, the carriers of the disease.

The events of this past week, both local and international, have demonstrated that it is always necessary to be prepared for disaster relief. As the case of dengue fever in South America shows, disaster relief can be necessary even in the absence of a cataclysmic storm; great human agony can be caused indirectly as well as directly by nature.

At The Minaret, our heart goes out to anyone on campus who may have known someone affected by the tornadoes last weekend, as well as to all those struck by the tragedy in Jakarta or the outbreak in South America. Though we were all lucky that we made it past this fall without anything of Katrina’s terrible magnitude, this week many of our fellow humans were not so lucky. We can all display our character by extending our aid to them in their hour of need.

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