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Friday, 15 January 2010

Haiti

Watching the news one can only feel appalled at the devastation and the loss of life. There have certainly been a number of miraculous escapes from collapsed buildings, but the whole thing is made much worse by the inability of those there to make use of modern communications to get their messages out. How quickly we discover just how dependent we are on electricity in this age - and how quickly we learn that we are next to helpless without it.

It certainly seems that Haiti suffers from the same problem with modern buildings that is so common throughout the developing world. There is a complete lack of understanding when it comes to Building Codes and structural requirements. Time and again I have seen this in my perambulations, on the one hand you are told that "this building is built to the .... Standard" and a blind man with a bit of knowledge of the said standard can immediately see that the building may have started out with reference to the standard, but that there was little more than lipservice paid to it in the realisation of the structure. The old joke about Soviet concrete springs to mind - you mean there should be cement in the concrete as well as sand?

A Richter 7 is some jolt and the damage done in Haiti is certainly commensurate. I shudder to think what would happen here in Tehran if we had one of that magnitude. I doubt that very much would remain standing at all.

For now I guess all most of us can do for the Haitians is pray. The news says there are tens of thousands dead and similar numbers injured. At least the US has been able to send several of their larger naval vessels to render aid, a large hospiatl ship, a carrier and her task group including a seaborne assault ship are on the way. And before anyone criticises that response, its worth remembering that one of those giant carriers is capable of supplying clean fresh drinking water for a small city daily. It has hospital facilities that the NHS should aspire to match and it has the aircraft and the supporting troops to get food, shelter and aid on the ground while the Civil Service in Whitehall is still holding its first committee meeting to decide if we can send a half a frigate.

That is why its worth maintaining a proper sea going navy and, if necessary, cutting the Civil Service by half to pay for it.

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