Editorial: Jeddah flooding to be a thing of the past

Updated 20 July 2012

Editorial: Jeddah flooding to be a thing of the past

Jeddah is hopefully on the road to becoming flood-free by late next year. More than 130 people lost their lives and thousands of homes were destroyed or seriously damaged in the flash floods that hit the city, first in November 2009 and then in January 2010.
There were a range of causes for these disasters. Infrastructure, though properly-designed was not built according to plan, drains were often not maintained and became blocked, houses and farms were built illegally in wadis, other building regulations were flouted, causing structures to collapse. Last but by no means least, there was no proper disaster relief plan to which the rescue services could work.
These errors came about through a combination of professional incompetence, failures by regulators and inspection regimes, corruption and a lack of thorough contingency planning. Many of the individuals responsible for the catalog of failings have answered or are in the process of answering for their actions in the courts or have lost their jobs.
The seriousness of what happened should not be under-estimated. It would be fair to say that the citizens of Jeddah were traumatized by the disaster, which was covered extensively by media worldwide. There were pictures beamed around the globe of people looking down on flooded underpasses and inundated vehicles with their drowned occupants, with complete and utter disbelief. It was rightly asked, how could such an appalling event happen in a modern city with supposedly state-of-the-art infrastructure ?
Well, by September 2013, all being well, new drainage-oriented schemes will have been put in place that will make sure that, the next time Jeddah is hit by torrential rains, the consequences will not be catastrophic.
This week Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal inspected eight sites in a network of 82 projects where work is going on to instal or fix flood prevention schemes. It is a hugely ambitious SR 3.39 billion program, on which around 7,400 workers have been engaged since this March. Among the facilities under construction are 12 dams and 20 km of canals, together with 85 km of piping. In all the building work is going to require 45,000 tons of reinforced steel and nearly three quarters of a million cubic meters of concrete.
One of the largest projects is a major drainage system for Jeddah’s new airport. All this construction effort comes in addition to the emergency work already done on flash flood protection, where fourteen different projects were completed by last December.
It is notable that this time the authorities are determined that there will be no mistakes and no shortcuts. A neutral company has been hired to check and control quality at every stage of the projects in the program. Its brief is to report the slightest deviation from the approved drawings and to monitor quality, by ensuring that the right materials are used in the right quantities. Contractors will be obliged to redo any shoddy or inadequate work at their own expense and, if the project is delayed as a result, they could also incur penalty charges for late delivery.
It will be equally important, once all the schemes are handed over by the contractors, for all of these facilities to be regularly and properly maintained. More than one back up of water and consequent flooding in 2009 was caused by drains that had become entirely blocked with rubbish and sand. This must not be allowed to happen again. It must also be hoped that scheduled inspections of drains will be put in place, using the very same technology that is deployed so commonly in the oil industry for pipeline inspection.
It will not be long therefore before Jeddah will become an altogether safer city in terms of flooding. As cities in the Far East demonstrate, even the biggest storm drains will never be able to stop some flooding, but they will ensure that collected water is carried away quickly, and that no serious or lasting damage will be done.
There is, however, one final part of the flood prevention scheme that the authorities have yet to demonstrate clearly that they have put in place. This is the creation of well-prepared and regularly practiced disaster relief plans, which would be as applicable to any other catastrophe as well as flooding. In 2009, individuals within the emergency services acted with considerable bravery and initiative. However overall coordination and command and control was conspicuously lacking. When the next floods hit 14 months later, it was not obvious that all that many lessons had been learned.


Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

Updated 16 May 2019

Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

  • Arab News argues that while war is always a last resort, an international response is a must to curb Iranian meddling
  • US strikes worked well when Assad used chemical weapons against his people

The attacks on Tuesday by armed drones on Saudi oil-pumping stations, and two days beforehand on oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE, represent a serious escalation on the part of Iran and its proxies, should the initial conclusions of an international investigation prove to be accurate. 

Riyadh has constantly warned world leaders of the dangers that Iran poses, not only to Saudi Arabia and the region, but also to the entire world. This is something former President Obama did not realize until the Iran-backed Houthis attacked the US Navy three times in late 2016. The recent attacks on oil tankers and oil pipelines were aimed at subverting the world economy by hitting directly at the lifeline of today’s world of commerce. Tehran should not get away with any more intimidation, or be allowed to threaten global stability. 

It was in 2008 that the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz called upon the US to “cut off the head of the snake,” in reference to the malign activities of Iran. Nearly a decade later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman referred to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the “new Hitler of the Middle East.” We are in 2019 and Iran continues to wreak havoc in the region, both directly and through its well armed proxies. Crown Prince Mohammed was therefore clearly correct when he argued that appeasement does not work with the Iranian regime, just as it did not work with Hitler. The next logical step — in this newspaper’s view — should be surgical strikes. The US has set a precedent, and it had a telling effect: The Trump strikes on Syria when the Assad regime used Sarin gas against its people.

We argue this because it is clear that sanctions are not sending the right message. If the Iranian regime were not too used to getting away with their crimes, they would have taken up the offer from President Trump to get on the phone and call him in order to reach a deal that would be in the best interests of the Iranian people themselves. As the two recent attacks indicate, the Iranians insist on disrupting the flow of energy around the world, putting the lives of babies in incubators at risk, threatening hospitals and airports, attacking civilian ships and putting innocent lives in danger. As the case always is with the Iranian leadership, they bury their heads in the sand and pretend that they have done nothing. Nevertheless, investigations indicate that they were behind the attack on our brothers in the UAE while their Houthi militias targeted the Saudi pipelines.

Our point of view is that they must be hit hard. They need to be shown that the circumstances are now different. We call for a decisive, punitive reaction to what happened so that Iran knows that every single move they make will have consequences. The time has come for Iran not only to curb its nuclear weapon ambitions — again in the world’s interest — but also for the world to ensure that they do not have the means to support their terror networks across the region. 

We respect the wise and calm approach of politicians and diplomats calling for investigations to be completed and all other options to be exhausted before heading to war. In the considered view of this newspaper, there has to be deterrent and punitive action in order for Iran to know that no sinister act will go unpunished; that action, in our opinion, should be a calculated surgical strike.