Twelve years after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, has unfolded an unprecedented disaster in America, and in a few other parts of the world.
Besides the destruction that might take decades to heal, the calamity has been both the same and different. The geographical upsurge has been more awesome, and palpably so. Whereas the racist factor influenced the relief and rescue operations in New Orleans in 2005 ~ in the America helmed by George Bush ~ one must give it both to administrations in Washington and Texas that the official response has cut across the colour of the skin.
Tragically, it did not in Louisiana about the same time in 2005. There is no call to underline the predominance of whites in Houston; a natural calamity ~ hurricane, floods or drought and the resultant suffering and deaths ~ knows no distinction of colour, a truism that ought never to determine rescue and the equally forbidding task of rehabilitation.
Viewed from the environmental prism, factors related to climate change have without question worsened the flooding.
Will Donald Trump reflect on his intransigence over the twin issues of climate and environment? It is fervently to be hoped that the hurricane will now be uppermost on his agenda, relegating the contentious issues to the margins. Chiefly, he will be expected not to repeat the mistakes that President Bush had once committed.
The latter, it would be pertinent to recall, was severely criticised for the sluggish response of the federal government to the murderous storm, which left more than 1800 people dead, with the damage calibrated at $151 billion.
The White House has been remarkably prompt in announcing President Trump’s visit to Texas. In point of fact, there has been a sharp rise in the sea level because of what they call “human disturbance” in the form of oil drilling.
It has been established over the past 48 hours ~ specifically after the landfall on Saturday ~ that the storm surge was half a foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction.
On closer reflection, it could be an understatement to call it “destruction”.
The flooding, as visuals suggest and the National Weather Service of the US reaffirms, has been “catastrophic” and is “expected to continue for days. The impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced”.
By far the worst hurricane in America’s history will almost certainly impinge on the discussions at the Paris conference on climate change this December.
And the world will expect Trump’s America to respond… not least because Hurricane Harvey has been likened to an apocalyptic onslaught of pounding rain and fiercely rising flood waters, that have reportedly brought the country’s fourth largest city to its knees.