PAKISTAN must learn from America’s Sandy experience, especially how, in spite of the deadly potential of the superstorm, human suffering was reduced to a minimum. Weather warnings helped. But what mattered greatly was how the people and the emergency ser-vices reacted to minimise the storm’s ravages. The administration and relief agencies seem also to have learnt from Katrina and acted with speed and planning. As TV images showed, conurbations along the long coastline were pounded by walls of killer waves, and houses were simply smashed and washed away. But because the evacuation of the coastal communities was done well in time and the people cooperated with the relief agencies there were very few casualties. The people also heeded the authorities’ warnings to keep off the roads — there was no panic and no one called 911, unless there was a life-threatening situation.
In drawing lessons from Sandy, we have to be mindful of the obvious differences between a developed country and any Third World nation. The absence of a well-oiled rescue machinery and a late, inadequate response tend to aggravate the misery. Also militating against a scientific response to disasters and contributing to chaos are features typical of developing countries — unplanned housing in depressions or close to coasts, lack of discipline among communities with little education, the absence of unity in cities teeming with migrants and the lack of mutual trust and sympathy between the victims and help providers. The trauma of the 2005 earthquake and the havoc wrought by the devastating floods in 2010 and last year are fresh in the people’s memories. We do not know how the monsoon will behave next summer, but it is time the National Disaster Management Authority learnt its lessons and prepared itself in advance for any disaster that may strike Pakistan.