On Poetry and Culture Shock

Hurricane Prestige

I didn't want to talk about politics but I can't resist the temptation any more. I think the paralellisms between Hurricane Katrina and the Prestige disaster are an interesting lesson.

Everyone knew that New Orleans was by the sea AND below sea level. The possibility of complete disaster was there since 2001 (my source is in Spanish). When disaster does happen, it gives a two-day warning, but even so, evacuation is anarchic. The president is on holidays, then he goes to the other end of the country to meet millionaries, then he goes back home, and only a few days later, after half a hundred people are confirmed dead, he goes to look at the mess from the distance. His subordinate in charge of managing national emergencies is a useless idiot with zero experience in the field, and had been fired from his last job. The Vicepresident is nowhere to be seen. When well-known "liberals" get involved in rescue efforts, their intentions are questioned as "a publicity stunt". And the country asks for foreign help. Fucking Hell. The richest country in the world has the nerve of asking my government for help!?

Now let's look at the Prestige. The Prestige was ship who happened to have one single layer of metal between the sea and a few thousand tons of oil, which means one teensy leak and you're doomed. The Prestige had an accident at a distance from the Spanish shore that would have made it advisable to get it even closer, so that it ended up in a harbour and destroyed one beach. With the boat in the middle of the ocean, the currents would have sent oil everywhere. In fact, the oil reached all of Spain's northern coast all the way to France. A similar accident in the same area of the country ten years before should have meant that there was an emergency plan to avoid the same thing happen allover again, right? Yeah, right.

The day the Prestige started to leak, the regional president had gone hunting with the minister responsible of doing something about the ship. When it became clear that this was a major emergency, the Spanish president was having fun in Rome with his friend Berlusconi. Basically, both the region's government and the national one, both Conservatives, said that there wasn't a crisis, that the oil would be picked from the sea easily quickly and easily, and two weeks later, when it was obvious that it wasn't so, and the ship was still leaking out oil in the middle of the ocean, in a mad exercise of doublethink the president accused the population of being "alarmists". The guy appointed by the national government to solve the crisis after the accident had already taken place was a businessman in the proccess of being chosen president of a system of satelite/cable televisions (it is always good for a goverment to have friends in the media, oh yes). The Prestige eventually sank down to the sea bottom, but not all of the oil came out. One day, the sea water will finish corroding it and the remaining hundreds of tons of oil will drift into the Galician coast. I don't know if taking it out before that time is technically possible; it was technically possible to drag the boat ashore when the captain asked for help, but he didn't get any.

Maybe I see similarities because I want to see them; to me the moral is that you better pray there aren't any major natural disasters on the years you have a Conservative government.
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