How about cleaning up?

Some media are in dramatic over-drive. Take CNN: it just posted on Facebook that the spirits of Irma’s victims are broken. Yet other media show resilient victims cleaning up, salvaging what can be salvaged, already working at rebuilding.

Sure, many are forced to abandon their islands at the moment, having lost everything. They do not know when and if they will return. This is heartbreaking and many of these victims are traumatized, shattered; but broken? I am not sure; especially, as many of these people are islanders, so are very resilient.

What I found dramatic: reports of looting. Looting for food and drink is difficult to forgive and forget. But these reports concerned looting, totally unrelated to survival.

Witnesses reported people were stopped on roads and forced to hand over wallets, money, precious belongings. There were images of people running away with televisions and similar stuff, the moment Irma had left. Power was down and the atmosphere was called “menacing”.

It is good to hear soldiers and extra police flown in, have apparently stopped looting. Imagine being a victim of a hurricane and losing practically everything. Then on top of this, being robbed of whatever money and precious belongings you managed to save.

What I also found problematic: politicians and reporters suddenly turning up. It smacks of disaster tourism. Did they bother visiting these regions, these islands before Irma devastated them? Perhaps for a holiday, but not because they were overflowing with real interest in the islanders.

Now survivors are without basic needs like clean drinking water, food, shelter – these people turn up? French Overseas Minister Annick Girardin had a valid reason. She boarded one of the first French planes flying out; but the rest who turned up these past few days, or continue to fly out?

Do they bring along their own food, bottled water, generator fuel, etc?

Not the CNN reporter and camera-man, who report from one of the islands. His coverage showed him at a local paper’s office, surrounded by local journalists now made homeless. Is it reasonable to presume, his colleagues also went out without bringing along their own food, own bottled water, own (generator) fuel?

So actually using and consuming what survivors actually need themselves?

What about the politicians, ministers, king, all surrounded by entourage? Nice to see them walk around, have a look, shake hands, address victims.

How come these folks are not seen actually helping victims? They are not cutting branches, helping remove fallen trees, clearing dirt from homes, assisting survivors. Take Boris Johnson, who actually turned up nicely turned out.

This smacks of disaster tourism. It smacks of being busy promoting the “human side”, advertising “compassion” – to ensure victims will stop criticizing and voters will cast a vote for the right person and party, in a future election.

Even if all these journalists, reporters, camera crews, photographers, politicians, ministers, king brought along their own food, water, fuel … It means less relief supplies were carried into the disaster-struck areas. Planes can only take that much weight.

So what are all these people doing over there, flying in and flying out?

Is it not reasonable to stipulate, that anybody who is not an inhabitant but turns up in a disaster area, should bring along enough food, clean water, fuel for their complete stay? So as not to use what survivors need?

Is it not reasonable to stipulate, anybody turning up and not being a disaster-survivor, put in that many hours per day cleaning up, mucking out, really helping victims actually salvage and rebuild?


About Kate

Multilingual arts & culture journalist, blogger, columnist, writer and translator. Contributes to international (news) media. 2014 winning columnist Gentse Schrijversdagen, Gand, Belgium.
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