Lesotho Times

Disaster managers caught flat-footed

ELSEWHERE in this edition we carry a story that exposes the appalling state of our disaster management services.
Last weekend dozens of people were trapped in snow in the country’s mountainous regions.
In Thaba-Tseka some people were injured when their bus swerved and fell into a roadside ditch.
There were also other groups trapped in buses and private cars along the roads to Mphosong in Leribe and Qacha’s Nek.
At that critical moment our disaster management services were found wanting.
The Disaster Management Authority (DMA), the very department that is supposed to deal with such issues, seemed overwhelmed by incidents they should have predicted given that cases of people being trapped in snow happen every winter season.
It’s not as if the DMA was caught unawares.
No.
Days before the incidents meteorology departments in Lesotho and South Africa had warned that there was going to be heavy snow.
The DMA knew what was coming well before it happened yet it seems to have failed to adequately prepare itself.
The result was that some people had to spend two days trapped in punishing temperatures way below freezing point.
The Lesotho Defence Forces which normally assists with helicopters in such situations pulled out midway through the rescue mission because it did not have fuel.
Without helicopters the DMA was helpless.
It’s fortunate that lives were not lost.
Things could have been worse.
Yet the whole debacle must serve as a wake-up call to both the DMA and the government.
We must admit that the DMA does not have the capacity to deal with huge disasters.
It has neither the equipment nor the manpower to deal with real disasters that might hit this country.
The few incidents that we have had so far prove this point beyond reasonable doubt.
This is a crucial lesson we should have learnt by now.
Over the years the authority has failed to deal with seemingly minor disasters.
For instance, it is notoriously slow in assisting people whose homes are damaged during the rain seasons.
It is not inconceivable that there are some families that are still waiting for the DMA to help them rebuild their houses destroyed during the last rain season.
We suspect that central to the problems affecting our disaster management services is the fact that they are designed to be reactive rather than being proactive.
It costs less to avoid a disaster but much more to deal with it when it happens.
If the DMA had warned that some roads in the mountains would be impassable surely few people would have risked travelling during those days.
To be fair on the DMA, it is worth mentioning that it is not the only emergency service provider that does not seem to work properly in this country.
It takes hours to get an ambulance in Lesotho.
Our fire department leaves a lot to be desired.
The police are notorious for reacting late to distress calls.
Our social welfare department is painfully slow because of bureaucracy.
To improve our disaster management capacity we must invest in these essential services as a country.
It is the government that is responsible for such services.

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

Contact us today: News: editor@lestimes.co.ls Advertising: marketing@lestimes.co.ls Telephone: +266 2231 5356

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