A humbling thing

During the last week has been Britain ravaged by flooding such as has not been seen since the 1940's. I am thankful that we are on high ground, and can't imagine what it must be like to have a metre or more of water in one's home.

I heard on the radio that some people have criticised the government for not setting up a disaster fund, so that people can give money charitably to help those affected, because this is what would happen if the disaster was overseas.

If this had happened overseas, our response may have been through government, or through some of our charities that specialise in such relief. It is interesting to wonder why people perceive a lack of it here. When New Orleans was flooded in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, the President of the USA was much criticised for being slow and disorganised with the relief efforts.

My guess is that, more than complacency or poor administration, a big reason is that we like to think that we are a developed nation, which means that we do not think that we deserve to suffer natural disasters in the way that the developing world does.

Radio journalists have been trying to be creative in their coverage of this event. So I listened to an interview with an architect in Holland who builds riverside houses that will float. He talks of how they now seek to go with the flow of the river's movments rather than to fight it. A response on the BBC Radio 4 website (Michael Pemberton: #21) says that floating houses have also been built by the Thames. Maybe there should be more of them.

It is interesting that BBC News online today has a headline about the flooding, followed by “PM considers 56 day terror limit.” Which has the capacity to cause more damage, the weather or terrorists? Or to look at that the other way up, maybe we need to thank God that on the whole our weather is reliable enough that we have some time to think about terrorists….? As the proverbial grandmother says: “Count your blessings.”

While I've been thinking about this, my copy of The Week arrived with an extract from the article by Alice Miles in The Times. She too takes the line of “Count your blessings” as she says, “If this is a national disaster, I’m a tomato.” (Does she look like a tomato?) So maybe the reason we don't have a disaster fund for Tewkesbury is because our floods are not on the scale of those that seem to happen regularly in Bangladesh.

Yet I would not wish on anybody the heartache and hassle of cleaning up a home after these floods, even if you have a good insurance company. Insufficient mention is given to those whose income has been wrecked by the deluge, such as farmers. So, even if floods are a natural event, I can understand the criticism of the government for failure to develop flood defences to cope with this level of flooding. Presumably somebody in government has made a choice that the probability of this level of pain and suffering does not justify the costs involved.

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