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EDITORIAL– Are we not our neighbours’ keepers?


NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

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There are observations worthy of noting in the passing of Tropical Storm Tomas on Saturday. Among them foremost is the often repeated but resisted cautionary viewthat you can’t be too prepared.
It seemed that on the weekend Barbadians weren’t prepared enough. Tomas came upon us virtually like a thief in the night.
Treading over our hedgerows, knocking overour pailings, snatching our roofs, tearing apartour sideboards, uprooting our trees.
It was as if the nation had only been given half a day’s notice; as if Tomas was of no initial importance. Maybe it had paled in significance in the face of the national mourning for our late Prime Minister David Thompson.
Then came the deluge and the whirlwinds.
Department of Emergency Management (DEM) director Judy Thomas admitted as much.
“We didn’t have the advisories, the watches, the warnings. We had almost a straight tropical storm warning,” she lamented.
And in the circumstance where the traditional storm announcements were absent, there wasthe “fast onset” of Tomas.
However Ms Thomas puts it, her expressed concerns are a criticism of the weather people. And there is no mistaking that the emergency boss sought to clear herself of any foul-up. That the DEM “responded slowly to disaster preparation”, she complained, was occasioned by the DEM having “to wait till the warning was given, based on the information . . . to the Met Office and their deliberations with the National Hurricane Centre” .
But we are flummoxed when she charges that “preliminary things were lacking in the communities” that should have been in place“and that the DEM had done the best it could. Well, maybe its best was not good enough.
We are not lost on the misery of those Barbadians whose homes were damaged by the winds of Terrible Tomas, whose house roofs took to the sky; but too many of our people grumble too much. We have discerned little in the tragedies of our neighbouring Haiti.
We have not yet got it: that we are blessed and ought to be thankful for the things we have. A caller to radio was lamenting about, of all things, her breadfruit tree which had been felled by Tomas’ mighty winds, and as if retributive, Pearson Bowen would ask if she had picked any.
Another caller couldn’t find her chickens. Host Bowen again obliged.
“Maybe, they flew off in fear?”
We take no pleasure in Mr Bowen’s ungraciousness, but certainly radio time could have been better spent on matters of greater gravity and the host might have entertained only such. The tumult of Tomas has affected every Barbadian – some more so than others.
It was imperative that those most disadvantaged physically by the storm ought to have been allowed to take centre stage.
Chickens that have flown the coop, and breadfruits burst at the seam cannot take priority over mothers and children with stripped house roofs or battered and broken places of rest.
Come to think of it, we need not advisories or watches to be selfless in the season of storms, we have only to be prepared throughout our lives to be our neighbours’ keepers – and to be commonsensical about it.

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