Jeddah Disaster

At least 44 people were killed in Jeddah after a heavy downpour. The rains caused a major infrastructure failure and the results were disastrous. My heart goes out to all Jeddawis.

This would not have happened if the people of Jeddah had a say in how their city is run. This would not have happened if there was transparency and accountability in how our country is governed.

I’m beyond angry and disgusted.

UPDATE 27/11/09 2:40: The death toll reaches 83. Keep in mind this is the official number announced by the Civil Defense. The actual number might be higher. More rains are expected on Jeddah tomorrow.

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53 thoughts on “Jeddah Disaster

  1. It is a real crime and responsible people regardless of their names and positions shall be brought to justice. I say that and I know nothing gonna happen. The question is when other citizens of this country will realize that and start working for it because their life clearly mean nothing to their government. It is not the first time happening in Jeddah and might not be the last!.

  2. Ahmed,

    I strongly agree that transparency and accountability in government, especially in issues such as this, for which there is a direct effect on the everyday public, should be required.

    Moreover, I am certain that corruption played a role in tragedy. Corruption siphons money from intended uses to unintended uses.

    What is remarkable is that in a country in which the clerical establishment determines the law, and in which that clerical establishment is so endlessly fascinated by women’s fashions, that the clerical establishment has so very little to say about corruption.

    One hopes that they do not believe corruption to be divinely mandated, as they do the minute details of women’s clothing and deportment.

    We should be able to do better.

  3. Wow. I read the news but didn’t expect quite that level of devastation.

    I haven’t been here anywhere near long enough to discuss the politics but I have cross posted this on my blog for others to see.

  4. Unfortunately , the western part of Saudi spicily Jeddah is highly corrupted. That is probably due to the fact that large portion of the population are 3rd and 4th generation sons of immigrants and that’s made them fell isolated . this has greatly effected their public since of responsibility. Scandals of corruption is beyond what could be imagined by KAUST supper computer ..ok even if shaheen could simulate the briberies , I am sure that the cave will fall short from completing the rest.

    Bribery is very common, spicily in project related to the municipality of Jeddah. The sewage system in Jeddah is a disaster and cause a lot of health problems like Dungee fever and dozens of other epidemics. One of my friend told me that streets has no sewer system yes you could see sewer opening in the roads but no actual systems under them.

    • Mohammed,

      So corruption is taking place in the Western side of Saudi Arabia coz its population is mainly 3rd and 4th generation immigrants??!!. What a joke!.

      Corruption is taking place cross and around Saudi Arabia due to the lack of accountability at the highest levels regardless of regions and being “original” or immigrant. It is the lack of ethics that struck the eye in many of the public projects regardless of which city it is happening. The case of Jeddah corruption can be discussed better by people who live their, yet I know that high government figures did contribute to the ugly reality Jeddah facing today.

  5. @ Andrew

    In everyone of your post you blame the clerical establishment for all ills that are inflicted upon this country. This catastrophe has nothing to do with the clerical establishment and everything to do with corrupted government officials. They are also being helped by third parties who siphoned money meant for large infrastructure projects, and put into right into their pockets. At the end these projects are never completed, we have mayors, after mayors who are useless, we have no sewage system, we have no rain water disposal, and we have the lovely musk lake. They tell you these projects will finish soon; of course this soon never comes.

  6. If I was you, I wouldn’t write this way; for my well being you know. People know who you are, you know very well you are not allowed to criticize, so stay out of trouble.

  7. You are truly childish. Are you aware that disasters happen all over the world to all types of peoples of every type of government and way of life? Instead of being angry and trying to use these peoples misfortune for political purposes, why don’t you see what you can do to help. Change starts with the people not the government.

    • Daryl asks: “What qualifies you to make this decision? Your years of experience as a blogger and social gadfly or are you clairvoyant?”

      I believe it is his years of living in his country that qualifies him to make that decision. It’s his understanding of the way HIS country’s government works relative to this incident. What makes you the expert?

      “Change starts with the people not the government.” – Funny, I always thought that the people were, in principle, the government. At least I think that’s what Ahmed hopes for in his country.

      Daryl, The only child here is you, striking out at something you don’t understand. Do grow up and take off the rose colored glasses of your youth.

  8. Dear Ahmed ba Oubod ,

    Don’t forget that we are Arabs and we can easily associate name to geographical locations. The BA prefix in your name has given you up, you are originally from Hathermot in the south of Yemen, thus , no wonder you tock strong stance against what I have wrote.

    On the other hand I am not claming that I have the absolute truth . However; I am sure that what I have said has validity at least to a cretin degree , because none can claim that Jeddah is home and build fake sewer system nor would the municipality inspectors will turn blind eye on it if they considered Jeddah their home.

    I am summer that having people from different origins has enriched Jeddah but , strong hint should be given to those who don’t considered Jeddah as their home.
    If I was in the position of power I will bring those contractor and municipality officials and take them to the gallous (hang them) without a trial and then take nationality privileges from their sons.

    • Mohammed,

      So you caught me?. It is not only Saudis and Arabs who live in Saudi Arabia know that the BA in my name means that I come from a family that come from Hadramut, even some expats who lived long enough here will recognize that. I am blogging for more than 4 years and I clearly said it in some blogs that I am the son of an immigrant who came to Saudi Arabia about 40 years ago. So I am not a 3rd or 4th generation, but I belong to the first generation of immigrants. Yet, I am proud of who I am and consider myself a Saudi citizen regardless of what anyone else in the world will think.

      Coming to what matters most, the cases of corruption take place all over Saudi Arabia. I have been living in the Eastern region of the country for the past 19 years and I have seen corruption taking place there very clearly though most of the residents and government workers are not sons of immigrants but belong to some of the biggest trips in the country.

      It is laws and their enforcement that we lack not the need to emphasis that some Saudis are less Saudis than others. It is the feeling of belonging to one country that many of us lack regardless of our family names and tribes

  9. Stormwater infrastructure is normally designed to cope with a 1 in 100, 1 in 200, 1 in 500 year storm, depending on how important that infrastructure is.

    If Jeddah received their annual rainfall in a few hours then this does sound like an extreme weather event. I don’t know details of allegations about corruptions but there should be a comprehensive public inquiry to determine the cause of deaths and what could have been done (if anything) to avoid them.

    My thoughts are with the families of those who died and the citizens of Jeddah.

  10. Persona_non_Grata:

    You say: “This catastrophe has nothing to do with the clerical establishment and everything to do with corrupted government officials.”

    I believe that this tragedy has to do with inadequate infrastructure, which in turn is tied to corruption and the misuse of governmental funds.

    Our government is one in which all laws and decrees, including those related to public works, are nugatory if in the view of the clerical establishment such laws or decrees are superseded or contravened by divine law.

    Thus, the clerical establishment has the power to override any such law or decree. Moreover, they do so regularly.

    My own understanding of the teachings of our religion is that the Rasulullah was firmly against corruption.

    Yet, it is a noteworthy fact that our clerical establishment never exercises its authority against corruption or corrupt acts.

    Insofar as they have this supreme authority to render nugatory or alter governmental actions, I assert that they therefore must as a logical consequence have a responsibility to do so to further teh goals of divine law.

    Yet, I notice that they rarely or never do so with regard to corruption.

    Thus, I believe that as a matter of logic you are correct that this tragedy has “everything to do with corrupted government officials” and that as a consequence it must have everything “to do with the clerical establishment” that oversees the government and its officials.

    If the theory of our government is that the clerical establishment should oversee the actions of government and be able to change them, why does the clerical establishment not do so regarding corruption?

    Is it that the clerical establishment believes that divine law supports corruption?

    So, when you say that I “blame the clerical establishment for all ills that are inflicted upon this country” this is often true because the clerical establishment has supreme authority over the laws and government of our country.

    I do NOT blame the clerical establishment for the rain.

    I do blame the clerical establishment, though, for not overseeing governmental infrastructure corruption, given their role in oversight.

    Of course, I personally would wish a very different role for them.

  11. I am sure our thoughts and prayers are with all those who lost their lives in this disaster, and for their surviving relations and friends.

    All this ranting and raving is understandable in letting off steam – we all do it, and it releases frustration and pressure, so let’s not snipe at each other in this unproductive way.

    Devastating as this catastrophe is for the residents of Jeddah (in particular) the Kingdom should brace itself for more events in the future. I was first in the Kingdom before many of the contributors were born. I know what was constructed, where and on what foundations. I know many of the corrupt officials and their cronies (whose sons are now well set up in big business with the payoff). The dangers were warned of then but people like me were ignored or suppressed. The seeds sown in the early 1970s are close to harvest. I shall continue to watch with grim interest.

  12. Wake up our government. This flood appears how slack is our infrastructure. what if this rain continued for 10 more hours, what will happen!! will we all die?

    Deeply unfortantely, Saudi Arabia government simply like a fool or goofy person who has large amount of money and he doesn’t even know how to spend it in an appropriate way.

    We are looking forward to a change to the whole system of directing these projects which take ages to be done.

  13. What a shock … and what a shame on Jeddah city officials.

    I really hope to see some public interrogations and questioning targeting the city officials and the companies carried out those poor infrastructure projects that cost millions of riyals.
    I was outside the country during the rain and I am just back few days after the disaster. You can see its prints all over the place. It was four hours of rain, but it looks like a tsunami just visited the city!!

  14. Why are people acting so surprised like we didn’t know this could happen?

    We are blaming the government, blaming the clerics, and sure i do to, but what have we the people done to avoid this? what have we don’t to try and fix the problems we knew we had.

    Don’t say we didn’t know because we did, jeddah floods almost every single year, we are so use to it we think its normal.

    The first time it hit me that this was a big problem was back in 95 or 96 cant remember the exact year but i was in middle school. My a big group of my family went out to dahban a small town outside of jeddah for the weekend, it barely rained there so we had no idea what has happened in jeddah. On our way back we we had to park most our cars somewhere at the beginning of the city and walked all the way to alruwais where we lived, most the time the water was above my waist. it took us from about 7am tell the sun came down.

    thats just one of my stories and im sure every one of us living in jeddah has a a lot of those wether it was not being able to make it to school, work or even just to the local masjed.

    and the excuse about how some of the old areas are unplanned and full of non saudis or non original saudis is just not going to cut it. I lived in alruwais one of the oldest districts in the city and we were always way better off than some of the new rich areas like alkhaldiya were i went to high school, at times my neighborhood was totally fine but couldn’t go to school because there was no way you could even enter that whole area let alone the school.

    in comparison now i live in the green washington state where this time of year it feels like its raining 24/7. but i have yet to see a puddle of water lol.

    In my eyes we are responsible for all of this because we didn’t stand up, ask questions and demand satisfactory results before people died. instead we act like yearly floods are normal and the government will take care of it, or assuming we are untouchable because we live in the land of the two holy mosques.

  15. For ME: Bechtel…? Those were interesting times.

    For SAAD AL-DOSAIRI: You cannot be serious – or are you? with comment such as ……

    I really hope to see some public interrogations and questioning targeting the city officials and the companies carried out those poor infrastructure projects that cost millions of riyals.

    You are either deliberately winding people up or nieve in the extreme. Even the cats in the street know that is not going to happen today, tomorrow, or for a very long time into the future.

  16. For DON COX: Such sterile reporting as you have highlighted is not surprising. I recall some years ago meeting a man who was sometime previously the Editor-in-Chief of a prestigious newspaper in the Kingdom. When I met him he had been reduced to Editor. I asked why? He replied “I grew tired of being arrested every week for some comment or other – as Editor I might hope not to be arrested for a month”. Saudi media knows its place in the order of things in the Kingdom. Nothing changes in the Ministry of Information.

  17. What can I say…? Corruption, Bribing, Poor Design, Horrible Construction. Contractors wanna get as much money as they can from the government when they take up such lump-sum projects. They use the cheapest material in market, cheapest manpower with no or little experience… what about quality audits during design and construction… any budget allocated for that? See how expensive the cost of quality is… could cost you your life… business owners think of quality as an overhead cost. It’s about time they think again!!!

  18. i can not believe that are we in the earth ..? i heard many sad stories about this disaster some one told me that he lost 3 doughters and his house and tow car … ! that means he lost every thing in this life … his family his porpaty his goods ….?

    i can not belive that

  19. First time poster long time reader.

    To be honest i think the most destructive element of any event such as this is can be dissected in two ways. I see people here who have rightful outrage over why it wasn’t prevented and adressed more seriously years ago. And the second argument is usually the post regret or indifference of the matter coupled with a quick retort of a “Usual suspect” to blame for it.

    Take this at face value if you will for anyone who sees no point in arguing why this happened or who is to blame. What puts us in this position to begin with was a mixture of false Saudi patriotism from the community that promotes our “Nothing can go wrong” attitude, A sense of religious defeatism on the matter from our spiritual branch of government, And the usual unprofessional and at times criminal work of our governments executive departments. Every person wants to always point at the fabric of the system, lay the blame and then forget about it. But forgetting about it after simply either whining in general or looking for a guilty person to persecute doesn’t stop it from happening again. Political grass roots reform is the only serious way to get any real sustainable change going in the long run. I think we should blame ourselves every day when we see no change in the matters we care about. 5000 years of human history proves that nothing happens from inaction. Everything changes whether you want to or not, the only thing you can control is whether it changes in your favor or changes to suit the benefit of those you blame.

    Does it have to be the lives of a 100 people that will change our minds? Or do we have to wait till its a 1000? 10000 maybe?

  20. This was a sad event. Here in Riyadh we pray for the rain in the summer, but never thought this would create such a disaster in the other cities. I agree that the, Local authorities must do something about the mess that happened in Jeddah. May Allah Bless the families of those who died.

    • Did you forget about the annual flooding of Exit 13 on the Eastern Ring Road? how many people died there yearly until it was fixed ? Not to mention the numerous other places in Riyadh that floods each year.

  21. Unbelevable catostraphy which is being invited to saudi arabia in jeddah by god allmighty just because of the punishment for the currupted beurocrassy.Thousand get cursed in this country because of the discrimnation due color and religion.There are thousands who are been in Jail without proper trial and really without justice which they dont deserve.When the staff is still working itself they come to know that they are charged by employer due to he ran away from him(hurub).What a pity ????.
    Its really the time too late to bring the things straight and clean.

  22. Hey i aint A saudi or BA saudi ( 3rd or 4th gen ) either , i am an indian expat living in jeddah for past 17 yrs .. I really do not see corruption as the main reason for this disaster, because i havent seen such kind of rain in my 17yrs in jeddah ever .. though i did see rain and would go to falasteen st to see how much it rained during those times .. water tankers sucking water .. for few hrs and thats it next day we wouldnt see water .. though i personally feel a city like jeddah which is commercial capital and a port city of country shoul have had a decent drainage system by start of millenium itself , now is clocked a decade after millenium.. I know it must have been a tough situation for familes left homeless and worse for people who lost their loved ones as i feel no amount of money compensates for the emptiness a loss of loved one causes. But being an indian expat i would say i am not really against the administration for handling the situation as they were caught by surprise .. i am pretty sure 80 % would have thought its just a lovel change of weather which by later part of night all of us would enjoy at corniche.. so i assume the authorities thought the same and not to forget that a good amount of admin also goes to makkah region for handling the haj situation .. which is equally important and no one would have thought that while a good part of admin is busy handling haj situation we would develop a crisis in jeddah city.. As for the word corruption i dont know much about it as to how are projects being allotted in kingdom .. but i did read some articles on arabia crossroads website xrdarabia.com where in foreign bloggers have criticized the higher ranking saudi officials of being corrupt (do try reading it) . I felt extremely bad on reading it and only word that came to my mind is LOOK WHO S TALKING , the very people who brought corruption in the world . But honestly we have given them a chance to speak and now we would have to face it as well.
    I do agree that we as indian expats are not really respected in the region , but for a country which has provided us or made us what we are i am thankul to almighty Allah and to the country .. but as it is in the Quran the Pens have been lifted and the ink has dried .. may be we were destined to be a part of this crisis but Allah will certainly have mercy on all affected people and families of people who lost their lives..

  23. I agree that the whole mayhem was a result of poor management. If you want to see a worse example, come to Sharjah. I have yet to see a place with such pathetic misuse of financial resources. The entire city is full of man-holes which turn into deathtraps during the rains. Though the road infrastructure is already the poorest I have ever seen, it becomes even worse during the rains. Time has no value on Sharjah roads. Going to a grocery store or a tailor are tasks assigned for weekends here because people are just too scared to go out on the roads. The city looks like a white-collar labor-camp. Two months ago the city went into complete darkness for 3 weeks due to SEWA (Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority) and when people called to ask about any updates, one got rude and disturbign remarks. As soon as the power came back, SEWA jacked up the prices by 30-50%. When asked why, the reason given was that this way people would consume less electricity which is good for the environment. This is one of the many money-making scams this city is involved in.

    Atleast Jeddah is cheap!

  24. # Ahmed
    ‘LOOK WHO S TALKING , the very people who brought corruption in the world . But honestly we have given them a chance to speak and now we would have to face it as well.’
    I don’t really understand what you are trying to say ‘about bringing corruption to this world’, but as an indian I guess you should know.

  25. i felt very much sorrow for this jeddah disaster several peoples lost thier love ones but on other hand we can save many peoples from any upcomming desaster by taking some strong n seriouse n loyal steps not only saying but implimenting them tooo i can give a small exmple ,i am living in Eastrn province n over here one of the tunnel is closed just after few months of its grand oppening n from last one year its closed for repair.

  26. Whatever may be the arrangements to tackle the floods,it is clear that if ALLAH decides to punish no one can stop Him.our Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when he saw the dark clouds on sky, he became very worried.When Hazrat Ayesha RA asked the reason for such worries, He replied”Ayesha Allah destroyed two ummas with rain and wind,how can i believe that there is no punishment in these clouds.Recently Pakistan is destroyed by floods.We should do Tauba Astagfaar before Allah to forgive our sins.Aamin

  27. Saudi Royals, know nothing in running a country. They simply indulge in their gold, their riches, which were squandered from the revenues of oil. They don’t care about anything or anybody else, because they think they are gods because they are royal bloods.

    Someday, oil in saudi arabia will disappear and these royal pigs will soon become desert nomads and scavengers.

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