The tempest

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“Ariel: Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” (The Tempest, William Shakespeare)

 

17 September 2017. A wonderful autumn day. Over 30 degrees Celsius in the air and a sublime blue sky.

Out of the wonderful clear sky, starts a storm whose wind gusts surpass 100 km/h from one minute to the next, sweeping away everything in their path. Rooftops, street advertising boards, trees, cars and even people, everything is torn apart, dragged and crushed.

In just 30 minutes, 8 lives are senselessly ended. And another 137 are in the hospitals’ emergency rooms. 15 counties and 212 localities have been dished out tragedy and chaos. There is a shortage of electricity and drinking water and people, Romanians, are once again asking: Who is more to blame now?! Nature or man?!

You don’t mess with nature. As Traian Basescu – one of the profound Romanian political thinkers – put it.

Very true. But if you cannot mess with nature and it seems you cannot even anticipate it – even though, theoretically, Romania is in the 21st Century, considered one of the historical peaks of global science and technology –, then with the Romanian political system one can mess even less. Because its nature seems to have to do with a domain that surpasses by far any imagination. Romanian politicians are predictable. Especially when we are talking about know-nothingness, indifference and throwing the blame on Romanians.

The storm that devastated western Romania came out of nowhere and hit everything it caught in its path, in just half an hour. Without the INMH or any other Romanian institution tasked with forecasting and managing crisis situations in Romania knowing about it or bothering in any way to inform and warn the population in the areas at risk about what was about to start out of nowhere.

However, there is nothing new in this sense.

Whether it is summer and the heat waves, tornadoes, drought and hail hit Romania ruthlessly and in a manner that is impossible to anticipate or suspect, whether it is winter and a terrible snowstorm hits the country, covering in snow expressways, dozens of localities and hundreds of thousands of people, the authorities’ perplexity and impotence in the face of nature’s wrath remains the same.

Whether the snow thaws and flash floods sweep away whole villages with all the lives in them, in Romania there can never be tranquillity, peace and normality, and only nature is always to blame for all the natural or less natural national disasters. This in the view of Romanian politicians.

Theoretically, I repeat, Romania is also one of the civilised countries of the world in the 21st Century. And, also theoretically, a political apparatus at the helm of a country and of a national institutional infrastructure is meant (also theoretically) to make sure it functions at parameters that are at least close to normal ones. Not to say optimal and exceptional parameters like happens in other civilised states of the world.

But, behold. In the midst of the disaster, politicians did – this time around too – what they know best. Minister Carmen Dan formed an ad-hoc crisis cell. Mr Nicolae Robu, the mayor of Timisoara, was very busy trying to prove his complete innocence to Minister Carmen Dan, the minister having accused him of being the only one responsible for the material damage in Timisoara! Because, in the view of the Romanian politician, material damage takes precedence over human life.

The mayor vigorously exculpated himself before the minister, claiming he received the storm advisory just minutes before the storm started. Let us stop beating around the bush, a storm is not something one can forecast. Like you could, for instance, foresee that, after such a terrible event, you have all the chances in the universe to fall out of favour with your bosses and to be made into a scapegoat. Tough luck!

And, on top of all this, Premier Mihai Tudose hit the nail on its head. He gave the laggard and careless mayor a thorough scolding, hitting him with a public verbal reprimand for the audacity of daring to raise his tone at the party’s leaders, who, it’s well known, are always right regardless of situation. “Ask Mr Robu why the street sign he inaugurated collapsed.”

The Prime Minister’s conclusion about the storm and its consequences boils down to the implacable question: “What, do you want us to pass a law so the wind won’t blow anymore?”

It is true that such a law (in fact, I believe an Emergency Ordinance would be even more appropriate), could exempt our leaders from very many expensive and time-consuming conundrums. With the wind no longer blowing, there would be no need to carefully tend the green areas, no need for the standardisation and efficient and correct installation of street advertisement board in cities, for the real and standardised repairing of thousands of rooftops or of other urban buildings left in disrepair for decades, for a functional and efficient national warning network and system, etc.

And, since the law for wind is adopted, the rest of the natural phenomena and elements could be included in this exceptional legislative package. So as to put an end, once and for all, to so many national disasters that hinder the magnificent governance plan and that block the path toward a new golden era.

However, all is well when it ends well, isn’t it?

Consequently, the Interior Minister declared herself fully pleased with the way authorities were able to manage the situation. And Premier Tudose held another lightning-speed meeting in which he loudly and ruthlessly ordered (as we have already grown used to him doing) the setting up of a working group managed by the National Management and Regulatory Authority in Communications (ANCOM), in order to come up with a warning system via mobile telephony. The application will be called ‘Sistem Alert.’ And it will be meant – just like other magical initiatives of its kind, set up overnight and taking shape out of various national crisis situations – to alert the population in emergency situations.

In this sense, let us recall that, after the Colectiv tragedy, politicians found a similar ad-hoc solution – ANRE Order no.179/2015, approving the Procedure concerning technical verifications on and overhaul of natural gas installations. Something that took out of the Romanians’ pockets another tranche of hundreds of millions of lei and which has remained just as foggy, unworkable and unclarified as the real causes behind that tragedy.

I also imagine that, if this system will work as efficiently as the national healthcare cards system does, for example, Romanians will have all the chances not only to stay out of the path of natural disasters, but also to remain on permanent alert.

Like happened in the case of another gimmick called ‘Biziday,’ belonging to a Romanian journalist who thought he should alert Romanians about the possibility of a tremor measuring… magnitude 10 on the Richter scale. So that, for several weeks on end, many mobile phone owners were notified at the most unusual hours and moments of the day that ‘Doomsday’ was about to occur. Because, at such a magnitude, it is difficult to imagine what would be left of Romania.

Thank God, the earthquake did not take place. However, the application ran indefinitely until Romanians became less sensitive and fearful to the idea of such a tremor. What could one do! It is like the boy who cried wolf. After all, everything in life has to do with habit.

In Romania, it seems everything takes place as part of a continuous simulation or demo. So far, we have simulated two national crisis situations, it is not known of what nature and origin. For this, sirens rang at fixed hours across Romania.

And last week we had yet another large-scale simulation. It was staged by the Bucharest City Hall, under the wand of Mayor Gabriela Vranceanu Firea. Its topic – a mega-storm loudly announced for September 20. The storm never arrived. However, Bucharest behaved like a city under siege.

But, when we were dealing with a real situation whose origin and nature could have been anticipated – the storm in the West – the only sirens Romanians could hear were those of rescuers and police units.

Only weeks ago, a large part of the southern American coast was hit by two almost twin hurricanes in terms of the moment of their start and action – Harvey and Irma.

They were followed by Maria, shortly afterward, it too being a category 5 storm, the maximum level on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

Special statistics called Irma the mother of all hurricanes experienced and historically recorded so far by humanity.

The whole planet watched with bated breath the live reports of American and international press agencies on the unfolding disaster and the way the whole American nation was informed, warned and kept within the parameters of safety and protection through the measures taken by federal and local authorities in the states lying in the path of the elements.

Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated and taken to safety several days before the wrath was set to strike those areas.

I have in my mind even now the image of police officers and police cars going down every street in the cities under warning, stopping at each house, making completely sure people understood what they have to do and evacuated the area.

I wonder, what if Romania had been in the path of these planetary monsters of nature, what would have happened to us?

So, who is, in the end, to blame for the lives lost and for the entire lack of security, the eternal chaos and confusion that rule Romania and whose eternal excuse is… nature?

Especially human nature.