April began and with it the showers and thunderstorms that terrify my dogs, Rusty and Sasha. On Tuesday, I woke up at 4 a.m. thanks to the lightning crossing the Southeast. Half asleep, I walked to the kitchen to calm down my four-legged babies with a piece of bread.
Two hours later, while eating breakfast, I read the latest reports about the landslide that occurred in Colombia last Saturday evening. More than 280 people were killed, 200 injured, and over 80 persons are still missing.
For one second I wondered, if I am scared while I listen to the heavy rain–even though I know our house is built up to code, on a sturdy terrain that is designated residential–what did the victims feel before the rivers of mud struck them on April 1st?
The articles on the websites of the Colombian news outlets caused me pain and anger. Mainly because of the crude heartbreaking images, but also for the rationalization of the disaster. The majority opinion claimed that the landslide was due to the proportion of rainfall in a very short period of time, instead of negligent governing and lack of action for decades.
One of the best Colombian geologists wrote a paper on Monday in which he said this tragedy had been predicted in the past. He pointed out that, Colombia’s rich hydrological resources represent a dangerous threat to towns and villages where people continue to build on the river-banks despite legislation or real estate ordinances.
Moreover, he warned that similar disasters will continue to happen every rainy season in the future in other 385 towns across the country, unless the law of the land (Law # 388 sanctioned in 1997) is implemented once and for all.
And so I ask, if the Government knew what had to be done to prevent this disaster, why didn’t they act? The answer is simple: politicians and bureaucrats need to maintain a segment of the population into poverty, especially in risky geographic areas to ensure that events like the Mocoa landslide happen every so many years.
This way, the President can take photo ops with rolled up sleeves and rubber boots. For a few days the people will have to forget about the mud of corruption that has stained his re-election term, as he conveniently ignores negative press from the news cycle, such as the massive demonstrations around the country demanding his resignation.
This tragedy also serves a purpose for the members of Congress who displayed a show of generosity on Twitter when they promised they would donate a day of their salary to the Mocoa victims–an anemic amount keeping in mind that they earn 30 times the minimum wage of the Colombian population for doing nothing else than snoring in front of the cameras while in session.
Unfortunately in Colombia, when the rivers rumble, governors and mayors play deaf. Although the authorities are aware of the illegal appropriation of land for residential development in flood prone areas, they chose to turn their heads away instead of managing the problem efficiently.
I can only pray for the souls of the victims and their loved ones left behind. Hopefully the homes promised by the Government adhere to proper building codes instead of the Lego building instructions used by toddlers.
Thanks for reading and sharing.