Friday, July 11, 2008

Rains bring tragedy and challenges


A tragic loss of life last week brought renewed focus on the need for government bodies in El Salvador to act on infrastructure projects to reduce flooding and other risks. Last Thursday night, 31 members of El Salvador's Elim Church were drowned as their bus was swept into a raging river current and smashed against a bridge pylon.

In a fierce thunderstorm that night, more than 5 inches (128mm) of rain fell, and the river Acelhuate overflowed its banks. The torrent caught the bus full of worshipers from the large evangelical church and pulled it into the river's concrete channel. A camera and video team from El Diario de Hoy just happened to be in the exact area and caught the last moments of the bus on video.

Through the following days, the press was filled with reports of the grieving families, the story of the one survivor, and the search for bodies which were carried by the river's current all the way to Chalatenango.

Many sought answers for the cause of the tragedy. According to a story in El Faro, authorities had conducted a study following Hurricane Stan to determine where rivers would flood in metropolitan San Salvador depending on the intensity of a rain storm. That study predicted that it would take more than 210mm of rain for the river to overflow its banks in that location, much more than the rainfall that night. Possible alternative causes were debris including tree trunks in the river channel forcing the river higher, but there are no definite findings at this time.

The National Assembly has called for an investigation.

1 comment:

El-Visitador said...

Typical flash flood. Open issues:

1. It is said that rainfall was only 60% of channel design limits. However, where is the rain gauge? How many rain gauges are there in the Acelhuate basin upwards of the Arenal? The 210mm limit is for which rain gauge in that basin?

2. What is the statistical safety buildout for the channel? Will it overflow once in a decade, once in a century, once in a millenium? In England, it was determined that the Lyn river floods the town of Lynmouth once a century, destroying the town and killing dozens each time. After the 1952 tragedy, they diverted the river so it does not flow through the town.

- * -

You classify this post as "natural disasters." Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a government-made disaster, which could easily be prevented by privatizing ANDA and the Acelhuate river with it.

Barcelona, Spain, used to have the same type of flash floods. Since all waters are the responsibility of private company Aguas de Barcelona, however, and therefore a tragedy like this would rest on Agbar's liability, Agbar has come up with innovative solutions that prevent flash flooding. In El Salvador, instead, "the government" is responsible, i.e., no-one.

Stop the government from killing people. We live in a Socialist system where the government owns all water, therefore water is scarce, dirty, and dangerous. Privatize, and get ready to enjoy abundant, clean, safe waters.