a date with death in riyadh
Last Updated : GMT 11:59:16
Egypt Today, egypt today
Egypt Today, egypt today
Last Updated : GMT 11:59:16
Egypt Today, egypt today

A date with death in Riyadh!

Egypt Today, egypt today

a date with death in riyadh

Jameel Theyabi

Sadness sneaks in suddenly, without asking. Sorrow mounts and tragedies accumulate unexpectedly. People who run about day and night singing about life and joy are placed in coffins, while others shed tears and wear black clothes. In Abqaiq, families went to a wedding to celebrate the marriage, but the party soon turned into a tragedy because of a “stray bullet”! In Riyadh, last Thursday morning turned into a funeral, with painful destruction scenes, charred corpses and bleeding individuals due to the explosion of a gas tanker, despite the numerous warnings issued in regard to the dangerous load of these trucks. But no one listened! This is life. It goes hand in hand with death and will remain filled with surprises, groans and crises, with joy and sadness. And while the Saudis had diverging opinions in their discussions and exchanged views while following Hurricane Sandy which struck America, they went to sleep while reflecting on a human tragedy that occurred in a wedding party in the eastern part of the Kingdom, one which claimed the lives of 25 people from the same family, and caused the fall of wounded people who are still receiving treatment. Twenty-four hours after this catastrophe, Riyadh woke up to the sound of a massive explosion that rocked and terrorized the capital, causing it to become shrouded in black, and generating concerns and rumors throughout the capital Riyadh on this bleak Thursday. On the morning of the explosion, at around 7:30am, I was browsing newspaper websites and reports when I received a message from a friend saying: “There is no might or power except in Allah. A major explosion just occurred in Riyadh.” I read the message and was baffled. I thus contacted some colleagues, only to find that some of them had already been awakened by the sound of the explosions, while others were by the phone calls of their colleagues and relatives. Reports quickly emerged on social communication websites about the nature of the incident and the magnitude of the catastrophe. Some wrote with conscience and sought credibility, while others spread rumors and false information, and others analyzed the reasons and interpreted the situation as they wished. The colleagues at the newspaper deployed double efforts to cover the incident, and colleague Abdul Aziz al-Otr was injured at the explosion site; he slipped and suffered an ankle injury. Riyadh was on a date with calamity or death. This was the headline of this newspaper the next day, to convey the size, repercussions and number of victims claimed by the explosion. And due to the repetition of numerous catastrophic scenarios, I believe that the Kingdom needs the following: Firstly: The Riyadh tragedy confirms once again the necessity for the emirates in the various regions to have departments specialized in dealing with crises and catastrophes, but also in quickly dealing with the media to provide it with information and figures in light of the speed of the new media outlets (i.e. citizen journalism). Secondly: Despite the efforts of civil defense and the arrival of some of its vehicles and elements to the site of the explosion within minutes according to eyewitnesses, it seemed to some journalists that there was no specific plan to deal with major explosions. This caused the absence of accurate data and the prevalence of personal interpretations and conflicting information coming from various sides. Moreover, the situation required the closing of the explosion site, which was belated in the case of the Riyadh explosion, and this allowed the crowd to enter the site and put their lives at risk. Thirdly: The Saudi official media needs to train its cadres, develop its equipment and practice on how to cover such disasters, while accompanying the event and acquiring and updating the information to deliver it to the public. Indeed, there is no longer any excuse for the delay in light of the new media, unless there is a wish to remain in the circle of bureaucracy. Fourthly: The results of the investigations should be swiftly published without any delay, so that the citizens do not lose faith in the committees that are formed with one disaster after the other, due to the existence of previous similar cases whose investigations have not yet been made public although they occurred years ago, and in which the guilty and those who committed the shortcomings were never held accountable. Fifthly: The regulations preventing the use of weapons in wedding parties among others should be strictly implemented, and those who violate them should be sanctioned, in parallel to the increase of control and the launching of awareness campaigns that would affect the people. Sixthly: Trucks carrying dangerous loads should be prevented from circulating at peak times and in residential areas, while the companies should be forced to install underground gas networks to avoid future catastrophes. Seventhly: There is an scene that should be rejected and condemned, i.e. the arrival of officials with their gilded robes and their aides, as though they had come to check up on their bodyguards and deliver a speech to them, rather than check the site of the catastrophe, monitor the performance, and extend their condolences to the families of the victims. What is certain is that recognizing the root of the problem is the first step towards a solution. There are clear shortcomings at the level of the Saudi safety measures, and this was seen on many occasions – the Jeddah floods, the girls schools’ fires and recently the gas tanker in Riyadh - while the solutions are still lacking. This requires a comprehensive reviewing and the implementation of strict laws to protect the people, in parallel to the imposition of ongoing control. In reality, optimism dissipates when one recalls that the Transportation Ministry is unable to provide comfortable transportation means, and that the city buses are still roaming the streets with rotting seats, reckless drivers and broken doors. And it seems that this deplorable situation will be sustained.  -- The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.

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