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Disaster, no respector of persons
Posted: Monday, December 27, 2004

By Linda Edwards

So Trinidad and Barbados are inching towards some minor conflict over oil and gas finds. And Cuba finds some, which is reported on CNN as 100 barrels. (Is 100 barrels worth pursuing, or is this American Mauvais Langue again?) Meanwhile the picture of the enormity of the disaster in the Indian Ocean states, sends us reeling. Could it happen on our side of the water? Well, Somalia is three thousand miles away from the epicenter of the earthquake which struck undersea. Three hundred people are reported dead in Somalia, with no tallies yet for Kenya and Tanzania on the East African Coast. No report yet from Diego Garcia, America's fortified base wherethe water would have had to pass to get to Somalia. The toll could be 30,000 by the time this is published.

If there was ever a impetus for regional co-operation, this would be it. This is bigger than the drug war, bigger than man-made terrorism.

We need o plan together as a Caribbean region, not only for hurricanes, but for the enormity of an undersea eruption in our Caribbean Ring of Fire. An eruption undersea anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Channel or the Caribbean Sea could send walls of water cascading down on us. An eruption in the Gulf of Paria, or in the 22 mile strip between Trinidad and Tobago could wipe out most of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Barbados, whose highest point of land rises to seven hundred feet.What good would our puny bickering do us then?

Disasters are no respecter of persons or boundary lines.

We should begin to work now with the Pan Caribbean Disaster Preparedness Project, to work to set up tsunami warning bouys in our waters. We have the money. Increased wealth colud make the lives of people easier. We could also in the light of this disaster, review our programme for building on reclaimed sea, and on filled in marshes. In such a disaster, Sea Lots, Beetham Estates, Westmoorings by the Sea, Carenage as well as Manzanilla /Mayaro could be wiped out. Te St. James Coast of Barbados and Grande Anse in Grenada would suffer a similar fate.The tourists who survive would simply go somewhere else, and leave the indigenes to cope.Even an eruption in the Cape Verde Islands, off Portugal, would affect us

When your neighbour's house catches fire, it's time to wet your own. In today's global village, we are all neighbors. If that water was not stopped by the solidity of the African continent, we would have been dead in its path.

We should start to plan, Mexico, Venezuela, Jamaica,Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, to work together on a planned early warning system to detect and evacuate if tsunamis are coming at us. If Monserrat's eruption a few years ago, was under sea, if the periodic belchings of Soufriere in St. Vincent and Dominica, or of Mont Pele in Martinique, were under sea, where would we be today?

We are all part of the Ring of Fire that is the Caribbean Chain as well as the Central and South American mainland. We should "take in front, before in front take us."

Or, we could sit like ducks, waiting to see what will happen to us, if the same thing occured in our region.

From Ft. George Hill, the Caribbean Sea seems to rise above the Diego Martin Valley, and is clearly visible over the hills. If that water, pushed by tremendous undersea forces, sought a channel through the hills, a goodly portion of the middle class, educated work force of Trinidad and Tobago, could be affected.

This is not a Cassandra warning. It is an appeal to look at things differently, to co-operate, to plan ahead. We cannot stop natural disasters. Intelligent planning can allieviate their impact. Can we rise above bickering and plan? Would the most mature government in the area take the first step?

Where is the younger statesman with a Robinsonian sweep of vision? He? She needs to stand up and come forward. The technology exists. We have the money.

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