Amid an acute shortage of tap water, the first heavy rains of the season have arrived. But although this happens every single winter, the authorities were as unprepared as ever to deal with the situation, leaving thousands stranded in their cars for hours at a time, many unable to return home Wednesday evening.
By Thursday, the Airport Road was not completely cleared, and the damage caused and working hours missed will have caused considerable financial losses. Hundreds of people missed flights out of the country. On top of that, property and infrastructure, including important agricultural works up and down the country, have been damaged.
For many of the nearly 1 million Syrian refugees in the country, this week’s weather will have made an already desperate situation even more intolerable. Much of their housing is temporary and flimsy at best, and will undoubtedly have been ruined in these thunderstorms.
All the while, caretaker Transportation and Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi has remained conspicuously silent on the whole affair. Not only that but a scheduled news conference was canceled Thursday, at a time when answers were most seriously sought. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati Thursday offered his sympathy to those who had been adversely affected by the weather. But what does that really mean?
The Lebanese are good at taking things in stride, and for many, 11 hours spent in traffic Wednesday night will soon become a funny story to share with friends. But it should not have to be so. We all know just how incompetent this government is; unforeseen occurrences are one thing, but seasonal weather, which occurs every single year, should not leave the streets of Lebanon in the same state as the streets of Gaza, where a fuel shortage has understandably left pumps unable to clear the roads of flooding. This was not even extreme weather, but just some rather heavy rain.
Next week will bring yet another storm, Alexa. Are we to expect the same extreme situation again?
The population has learned to stop demanding the seemingly impossible: a country which distances itself from foreign powers, which allows itself to write its own direction in the region, a Lebanon which is safe and secure, which has said goodbye to the assassinations and car bombs of the Civil War era, and where the young have access to a flourishing and vibrant jobs market. The very least, then, that the Lebanese deserve is to be able to get home at the end of a long day at work, to return to their families to share dinner and be together. If next week’s storm brings such severe delays on the roads again, rendering thousands unable to return home, then we will know once and for all that the caretaker government and its ministers do not care about even our most basic standards of living, and it will confirm for us that we are living in a failed state.