Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Here's how it's done:

Joe Carter thinks apparently that expecting a government to take measures to keep citizens safe is a form of idolatry. Not so, Joe; this really comes down to basics.

Serendipitously the same evening I read Joe's post, I happened upon the Daily Yomiuri; this article appeared there:

TOKYO - (KRT) - Japan's Construction and Transport Ministry plans to send a team of ministry officials and experts to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans to conduct on-site research, a move aimed at studying safety measures for low-lying areas in Japan, according to ministry sources.

With Hurricane Katrina having submerged almost the entire southern U.S. city last week, the ministry has been alerted to the impact a major storm can have even on a major industrialized country, the sources said. The disaster has prompted the ministry to consider reviewing its flood control measures, they added.

Japan has a total of 1,169 square kilometers of area at or below sea level, including the Kanto Plain and the Osaka Plain. Above all, the Koto delta district along Tokyo Bay's waterfront is home to 3 million people, prompting fear of possible disasters similar to the one seen in New Orleans as a result of broken levees. In light of this, the ministry intends to dispatch personnel to New Orleans to try to determine the cause of the city's levee breaches.

New Orleans was flooded mainly because a levee near Lake Pontchartrain, north of the city, collapsed under eight-meter high waves.

Also in Japan, as sea-level zones run through big cities, so does damage from tidal waves. In 1959, a typhoon hit Ise Bay with a 5-meter-high storm surge that broke levees on the Nobi Plain in Nagoya and other cities, leaving more than 5,500 people dead or missing.

Following the deadly disaster, the then Construction Ministry tightened its flood control measures by building breakwaters and floodgates resistant to tidal waves caused by typhoons equivalent in strength to the one that devastated the Ise Bay area.

Now Japan was a poorer country in 1959, but their government tends to try to a) learn from its mistakes, and b) takes preventative measures, and so since '59, they apparently have been doing a good job at prevention.

Did the US Federal government send civil engineers to Kobe after the earthquake there?

Carter's response is nihilistic; it is better to have public officials take proactive measures and follow through on them, rather than relying on the ideology that "no government is best" and then take the consequences of dead people when catastrophes hit. It's idiotic to hide behind the ideology of "federalism" and "we can't do anything" when clearly there are things that can be done. They just weren't because too many people were snookered into thinking "government is the problem."

One other thing I'll add: in Japan and China people aren't generally bothered by typhoons; much of their hydrology and civil engineering already reflects a resistance to them. (I know this for a fact; I went through one in Osaka once. I was at a technical conference, and nobody stopped doing anything. Not even the lights went out. And it wasn't a wimpy storm either.) Japan, a small country with little plain area, doesn't have all that much area that's floodable compared to Louisiana.

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