While the sky keeps raining dogs on Jeddah, we finally have an official reaction to the disaster. On Monday, King Abdullah ordered the setting up of a high-level committee that will study the extent of the damage due to the calamity. It will also study the causes of the crisis and recommend ways to make ensure that it does not happen again.
The royal decree was particularly interesting because it featured a strong language that is rather unusual for government communications. Many officials in Jeddah, including Makkah Governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal, stressed in their statements that this was a natural disaster and there was not much they could have done about it. However, the royal decree made it clear that the devastation has more to do with the performance of the government than the amount of the rains.
“It is painful that many countries, some with even less potential than the Kingdom, experience similar rainfall almost every day, but there are no devastation of the magnitude we witnessed in Jeddah,” said the decree. “We cannot ignore the fact that there were mistakes and failures on the part of some departments and it is our duty to identify those responsible and take action against them.”
By Saudi standards, this is not normal. Some people even think the whole point of the royal decree and the investigation is to defuse the public anger over the catastrophe. But the firm language of the decree makes me believe that it is going to be different this time.
I certainly hope that this committee will hit hard on the widespread corruption that led to this disaster. Money alone is not enough to compensate the families of those who lost their lives. We must make sure that those responsible for the tragedy are taken to task because this is the only way to make sure that it won’t happen again.