Thursday’s tsunami drill, held in the coastal town of Jbeil, confronted a “tangible” threat, we were told by the organizers. Involving the whole spectrum of emergency services, it is nonetheless hard to take such a threat seriously when the Lebanese are every day faced with far more pressing concerns.
Held amid unseasonably late torrential rain, the tsunami drill coincided with at least 12 injuries across the country, due to poor drainage systems and far from ideal road networks. Yes, perhaps an earthquake and subsequent tsunami is imminent, but what about the daily problems the Lebanese must deal with?
Quite aside from the insufficient supplies of water and electricity, the emergency services themselves are greatly lacking. Ambulances, unless owned by private hospitals, are provided and staffed by the entirely voluntary Red Cross. Firefighters often turn up too late to even hope to put out devastating blazes, as Monday’s Baabda incident highlighted. Too often lives are lost by civilians attempting to manage household fires themselves. Ahead of the summer season, forest fires are also another threat that needs much greater attention.
Security services have appeared to clamp down on certain manmade threats – namely kidnappings and explosions – over recent months, but these can never be expected to disappear completely.
Until the Lebanese can comfortably go about their daily lives, and feel complete trust and faith in the emergency services, perhaps we can worry about tsunamis another day.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 09, 2014, on page 7.