'People were negligent and didn't prepare for the hurricane'

Natural disaster expert says civilians need to listen to warnings, warns true extent of Texas damage will remain unknown for months.

Shimon Cohen,

Damage from Hurricane Harvey
Damage from Hurricane Harvey
Reuters

Natural disaster recovery expert and Former Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Earthquake Preparedness Dr. Efraim Laor spoke about Texas' recovery process from Hurricane Harvey, and about preparations for natural disasters.

According to him, reports are based only on estimates, and in actuality "no one knows and in a month from now no one will know" how much damage was really done. This is because "the affected area is huge, the damage is still occurring, and it's not about to end."

Dr. Laor noted that even if they try to estimate the extend of damage based on aerial photos, it will not provide a full picture. Only external damage, uprooted trees, and overturned cars will show up in these pictures, and after the area is cleaned up, the damage won't look too bad anymore - even though it will be much more significant.

Regarding the number of dead, injured, and evacuated, Dr. Laor said not enough is known yet.

"No one can know, because most of the time we base ourselves off quotes from people who arrived at medical centers, and the relevant authorities saw the report. At this point, we cannot bring the injured and dead. There are things we will know only later. Right now, there is no power and no means of communication. We also don't know how many people evacuated," he explained.

Dr. Laor also noted that the US is "still dealing with people whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina a decade ago. There are several million who left their homes and came back to find what was still usable and what was not. Sometimes this kind of ground damage causes harm to buildings' foundations, so that even buildings which seem livable need to be destroyed and rebuilt. There's a lot of groundwater there, and the ground has turned swampy."

Regarding whether or not Harvey was as "catastrophic" as predicted, Dr. Laor does not blame the government as much as he blames private individuals.

"It's not connected to the state, it's connected to the people," he explained. "You tell people what to do and they don't do it. You tell them to prepare their homes so that they'll be able to withstand storms like this, you tell them to raise their homes, but people don't do it. So they shouldn't be complaining now."

"A house built on low land which can be weakened needs to be rebuilt so that it can stand such winds. But they build it approximately, so it can more or less withstand them."

הרחובות מוצפים, בתי הקהילה ניזוקו

Currently, those who survived the hurricane suffer two main problems: water, and medicine. In Dr. Laor's opinion, this will be Israel's main problem when natural disasters occur.

"There's a lot of rainwater, but it's polluted, and there's a lack of medication. Neither of those can be provided right now. You tell people to have a few weeks' worth of medication stored up, and to have drinking water. What could be simpler? But when the day comes, people empty the supermarkets as fast as can be."

Even those who prepare will have a hard time of it, but Dr. Laor insists they still need to prepare.

"Those homes with reinforced panoramic windows won't be flooded. In the southern US, from Florida to Texas, people know how to do this, and they're used to it. But people don't do what they should do, even when it doesn't involve a large monetary investment."

"All we're saying is that you should buy the rice you plan to buy in two weeks - now. It shouldn't sit in the supermarket, it should sit in your pantry. The same thing goes for medications, but people don't do it, because they're in denial and negligent. Those who don't listen, deserve what they got."

"All those who expect the authorities to help them need to remember that it's not just private cars which can't travel against wind gusting at 150 or 200 kilometers per hour - it's also firefighters and police officers. What can the authorities do in such a situation, other than send Twitter tweets?" he asked.

"In cases of flooding, you need to go to higher land and keep clean, because flooding provides comfortable conditions for illnesses to develop.

"There will be floods in Israel, too. Even if it's not a hurricane, there will be floods from tsunamis or reservoirs which broke. Even if these floods are localized, that won't matter to those whose area is flooded."

Dr. Laor also noted that while Third World countries' pollution is on the ground anyways, First World countries' pollution begins to float when the water surges together with the pollution it contains. In industrial areas around the Western world, this pollution is much worse than that of Third World countries in Africa and other areas.

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas as a Category 4 hurricane. It is now a tropical storm, and has claimed at least five lives.




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