Service of Disasters

February 13th, 2023

Categories: Building and Remodeling, Building Codes, Charity, Disaster

Image by Angelo Giordano from Pixabay

I’m still in awe at the havoc Hurricane Sandy foisted on Manhattan 11 years ago. I wonder what the city has done to protect essential properties such as the NYU Langone Hospital complex that’s next to the East River. It took years to set the building right from damage by intruding aggressive water.

The death toll and damage from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria has shocked the world.

The loss of almost 30,000 people in Turkey alone takes an insurmountable toll on a community. I lived for two years in Adana, a city from which now many journalists file their news reports. Its hospitals are bursting with injured victims. I often visited Gaziantep, closer to the eye of the natural upheaval. I spent a few hours in Syria because my mother wanted to see the Cedars of Lebanon when she visited me in the Middle East.

Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, speaking to Scott Simon on NPR Weekend Edition on Saturday said something I’d feared: that while such a catastrophe would have caused huge damage anywhere, it didn’t have to be as bad. She said that nothing changed from the last momentous earthquake in 1999 when 19,000 died. Building regulations are still not up to standards, she said, and as a result of widespread corruption the existing building codes weren’t followed. The upshot: more people than necessary died.

When the earthquake hit 24 years ago, politicians said they’d bring in stricter laws, rules and regulations which if they did, were not enforced said the author. Rescue efforts were too slow, she added, despite money collected from an earthquake tax. Since I heard the interview newscasts report that others share the same view.

Nevertheless, regardless of reason or fault, there are thousands dead, more to be found and millions suffering in the cold having lost everything. I looked into a few charities that are helping in the region. World Central Kitchen has been providing hot meals to victims for days. A well-regarded charity appraiser, Charity Navigator, rates it at 100. Also at the top of their ratings, in a list of charities helping victims of this disaster, are Doctors Without Borders USA, rated 91; American Red Cross, 96; Direct Relief, 100 and Operation Blessing International, 95.

I was upset when as a result of nasty storms we lost glorious old trees, electricity and phone service for weeks and burst pipes that caused extensive damage. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything in addition, perhaps, to loved ones. I think this after every disaster. We can’t control nature when it turns fierce. We can only try to mitigate potential damage with what we have learned about protecting coastlines and bolstering buildings with appropriate stringent codes and oversight. Apart from war, can you think of other examples of lives lost unnecessarily because precautions have not been taken?

Image by Angelo Giordano from Pixabay

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4 Responses to “Service of Disasters”

  1. Francine Ryan Said:

    Francine on Facebook: So well written and so smart, Jeanne! And yes, lives have been lost because the warnings about impending storms were not communicated either soon enough or vigorously enough.

    Think of all the Asians who lost their lives in basement apartments during floods.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    In Turkey apartments built to withstand earthquakes didn’t. Criminal. Skimped on building materials apparently and skirted building codes.

    I can’t forget the man in Staten Island who refused to leave his bungalow where he’d lived his entire life. He was warned about Sandy’s promise and he said nothing ever happened to him before. He died after water filled his little home near the shore leaving him no space to breathe air. Horrific.

  3. lucrezia Said:

    A life may accidentally be lost for slipping on a banana peel and crashing to the ground the wrong way. Add the possibility of natural and manmade disasters, and one could metamorphose into a whimpering pulp, scared to emerge from under the bed.

    Living in the manufactured terror of “what ifs,” only increases misery, while squashing the many benefits that life has to offer. One may never meet up with the murderous peel nor be sucked up by a tornado, so if worry is a must, remember that holidays get closer daily and that it’s time to get cracking!

  4. Anonymous Said:


    The banana peel and shoddy construction are things that don’t need to happen and are inexcusable. Passivity is not appropriate where other peoples danger is concerned. I heard on the news this morning that a council person wants licenses required for bicyclists in NYC. If this helps prevent life threatening accidents made by people on bicycles crashing into pedestrians because they are hotdogging it in the wrong direction or through red lights I’m in.

    Don’t know what can be done about encroaching waters that threaten buildings next to water but the specialists are hopefully taking necessary steps.

    Meanwhile, once the worst happens if we can help, let’s do so.

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