Monday, February 26, 2007

Of Natural And Human Disasters

Indonesia saw herself suffering from yet another ferry disaster.

On 22 February 2007 an Indonesian ferry, Levina I, carrying 227 passengers departed from Passenger Terminal II of Tanjung Priok Harbor, Jakarta, at 1.30 a.m. WIB (Western Indonesian Time). It was heading for Pangkal Balam, Bangka island off Sumatra when, as reported, it caught fire in the Palau Seribu waters at 5.30 a.m. WIB.

Beside the passengers it also carried 17 crew and 42 colt diesel trucks filled with goods. Early investigations had suggested that the fire was sparked by one of the lorries on the ferry's vehicle deck.

Till this point of the post, the total death toll has reached to 41. While the ferry's log reflected a passenger figure of 275, the actual figure for passengers found dead and alive has reached 313. As the head of the Jakarta air and sea police, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Frederick Kalembang put it bluntly, "Therefore there were at least 38 of them who were unregistered. This is a major negligence."

Adding on to this tragedy was a second unfortunate incident that befell on the same said ferry - it unexpectedly sank off the coast of Jakarta after it was being towed to a location some seven nautical miles north of Jakarta's Tanjung Priok harbour. On board were 16 people consisting of teams from the national police and the National Transport Safety Committee, as well as media reporters and cameramen.

The ferry was being investigated by the police when it suddenly leaned to the right, rapidly sinking with the 16 people still on board. A cameraman from the LaTivi television station was later found dead after being pulled from the ship and rushed to the hospital. Another cameraman and two police forensic laboratory team were found missing also.

Just as I began in this post, Indonesia has seen YET another sea tragedy. If one is to go through it's recent accidents, one would inevitably come to ponder why have such tragedies keep occurring, seemingly without an end. Despite the latest technology the world can offer, and an unimaginably huge amount of information accumulated and made available, developing countries like Indonesia, India and China are still experiencing human tragedies year after year. Why is that so?

I personally feel that the reason lies in, as the name 'human tragedies' suggests, human. As a country progresses, as the parliament sits in, and as the budget is fixed and determined, how much attention and resources is actually allocated to the unseen yet deciding fields of nation-building? Almost all political leaders wishes to channel his or her available resources to constructing 'the tallest buildings', 'the grandest museum' or simply 'the largest air/ sea port'. In the face and eyes of the international media, they probably were taken into the belief that these concrete and tangible icons are hallmark barometers reflecting accurately the financial status or economic prowess the country is possessing and enjoying.

Nothing can be further than the truth than this. Instead of investing the wealth the country has generated in the past years back to building the fundamentals of the society, political leaders more often than not believe that it is more important to construct meaningless, 'iconic' symbols that would perhaps carry their names into the future, long after their departure from the scene. Thus we see muddy or dusty roads not transformed, malfunctioned lighting not repaired, safety features and procedures not installed and enforced, health standards not improved and hygiene consciousness not raised. All these in turn lead to what we are witnessing - repeated occurrences of such disasters, which the sole contributors are no other but human themselves.

While natural disasters have taught us the power of nature and fragility of humankind, human tragedies took place for a totally different lesson - the innate arrogance human beings possessed, and the web of insatiable greed for power and fame we have weaved for ourselves. Till this day, we remained as what we were before and blinded by our own flaws, we failed to evolve and rise to a higher platform of enlightened consciousness. The cost of such a deluded mentality is more than just basic infrastructure of the country not improved; it has in actual fact created a whirlpool of indescribable sadness and unforgettable tragic memories, drowning the mourning family members of the victims and constantly repeating the cycle over and over again.

1 comment:

Lis of the North said...

Hi stormrider
Couldn't agree more with your last paragraph in this post. We humans have this delusion that we are so very clever, but really our lives are so very fragile. And we seem very unwilling to learn from our mistakes!!
I hope that your country can reconcile growth and development with a safe and sustainable environment and life for its people. That is the challenge for us all.
Take care my friend.