Jeddah is a city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lying on the west coast. It is an important city to the kingdom as it is considered the hub of international trade in Saudi Arabia. With the city’s close proximity to the sea, it is affected by high temperatures and humidity on summer with temperatures rising to over 40 degrees centigrade. The nature of the ground makes it hard for it absorb water incase of high rainfall, causing the floods. Recently, the city of Jeddah experienced a huge downpour causing floods, resulting in the loss of life of more than 500 people and extensive destruction of property. This resulted in the public questioning the government’s readiness in dealing with disasters and whether the administration is doing enough to prevent such an unfortunate event happening again.
On 27th January 2011, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia experienced substantial flooding in a matter of a few hours with overwhelming consequences. Back in November 2009, 100 citizens perished in the floods and the latest floods claimed over 500 hundred lives. The city’s inhabitants are finding this hard to comprehend taking into account that Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest economies today. The government’s response to the two calamities has time and again been wanting causing unrest in its citizens, questioning its commitment and capacity to deal with such disasters (Humaidan, 2011).
CAUSES OF THE FLOODS
A number of factors are to blame for this unwarranted loss of life and wanton destruction of property. The Saudi government is laden with massive corruption more so the Jeddah city’s administration. A city that accommodates inhabitants close to 4 million people lack basic facilities such as a functioning sewage collection and treatment system. The result of this as experienced in the recent weeks was the mayhem and deaths caused by the floods as the huge amounts of water submerged the streets and people’s houses (Wagner, 2011). Another contributing factor is the government’s lack of vigilance and inadequate response in times of calamities. Being the second time in a year that the city is experiencing floods, it is hard to understand how the government was caught unawares again. Jeddah administration did not bother to put in place measures and precautions to deal with such a disaster incase of a similar occurrence.
Saudi’s royal family have greedily seized huge pieces of land leaving most of people unable to acquire property. The land is then sold to the inhabitants at exorbitant prices and they end up putting up structures without proper planning and lacking basic amenities such as water, electricity and sewerage. The outcome, whenever the flood strikes the poorly built residences are swept away by the waters equally leaving dead people in its wake (Ahmed, 2009).
EFFECTS OF THE FLOODS
After the floods, over 500 deaths were reported but the government tried to cover up this by putting the figure at 100 people. Buildings and many other properties were destroyed and hundreds of cars swept to the sea. Hundreds of families were left without homes and forced to move in with relatives living in other cities of Saudi Arabia. Huge traffic jams were reported in the city’s major highways by the Jeddah Traffic Department, which lasted for hours throughout that week. Hundreds of residents experienced power outages as reported by the Saudi Electricity Company, which put the figure at more than 5,000 people without electricity. Some buildings in the city caught fire such as Hera Mall and reportedly others cracked and as a result collapsed to the grounds. There were reports of cars being swept to sea and roads and bridges washed away (Wagner, 2011).
However, all is not lost and the government ought to implement measures to deal with these calamities. The government should put into place adequate measures in readiness for timely response whenever a disaster strikes. Proper infrastructure development should be the number one priority of the government. Good roads, sewerage systems and drainage facilities are some of the amenities that the city should never be short of. The engineering department which oversees planning and development should completely be overhauled and qualified personnel appointed to run it (Ahmed, 2009). Netherlands has all along been able to deal with flood disasters whereby dikes have been put in place along rivers and seas. This was a response by the Dutch government after the huge storm of 1953, which caused massive floods. The Saudi government can learn a lot from the Dutch’s use of dikes to control flooding, which will go a long way in alleviating the flood menace in Saudi Arabia (Oosthoek, n.d.).
Saudi Arabia is an oil rich country and it is a sad state of affairs for a country with huge revenues to suffer from such disasters just because of mismanagement. The corrupt officials cannot be entirely blamed for this, but the root problem stems from high up in the monarch. If they lead by example and serve their citizens diligently, the royal family will completely be absolved of any blame and no more loss of life and uncalled-for property destruction will be experienced again.
Ahmed, A. (2009). Jeddah flood deaths shame Saudi royals. Available at: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/03/jeddah-floods-sewage-al-saud?commentpage=1#start-of-comments> [Accessed 21 November 2011].
Humaidan, M. (2011). Jeddah flooded once again. Available at: <http://www.defence.pk/forums/members-club/90554-jeddah-flooded-once-again-26-1-2011-a.html> [Accessed 21 November 2011].
Oosthoek, J.K. (n.d.). Dutch River Defenses in Historical Perspective. Available at: <http://www.eh-resources.org/floods.html> [Accessed 21 November 2011].
Wagnerm, R. (2011). After the Flood: Rising Saudi Anger Getting Response. Available at: <http://mideastposts.com/2011/01/29/after-the-flood-rising-saudi-anger-getting-response/> [Accessed 21 November 2011].