Do The Right Thing

The destruction of 1600 homes in the northern Albertan town of Fort McMurray amidst apocalyptic shots on television of forest fire and flame has been jaw dropping to watch. Mercifully, no life has been lost excepting two fatalities resulting from a road traffic accident during the evacuation of the 80,000 residents. I hope it stays that way as well it might given cooler weather, some light rain and the herculean efforts of their fire fighters have capped the growth of the fires, for the moment at least. Fire fighting will though, continue for many weeks and months ahead before it is finally extinguished.

These big forest fires are becoming more common. A combination of global warming and successful campaigns to reduce fires, which has left more dead wood accumulating on the forest floors over recent years, mean that when they start, they get big quickly. 

Notwithstanding that, Canada is a big country with lots of financial and manpower resources and being a stoic lot they'll quickly rebuild what has been lost. Canadians though, are always at the front of the queue to offer help when a bad thing happens elsewhere in the world. Wouldn't it then be a kind gesture for the Prime Minister to offer to fly over a regiment of Royal Engineers to help out, (especially as the British Army has been training in south west Alberta at BATUS since 1971)? Even better, lets rebuild the school that burnt down as a 'gift from the British people.' It wouldn't break the bank and especially given the events of 100 years ago, it would be a modest gesture of appreciation for all that Canadians do in the developing world today and all that they have done with us in the past. 

 

Send for the Sappers

In what looked like a smart use of resources, 36 Engineer Regiment , (based in Maidstone and which is home to the Queens Gurkha Engineers), said in a Facebook piece posted a couple of hours ago that lead elements were deploying to Nepal to scope aid requirements with a Queens Gurkha Engineer troop preparing to follow. (wee bit of advice for HMG, I know they are hard workers but Nepal might need a bit more than a troop of sappers).

The piece has been pulled from Facebook though. Perhaps the Nepali government said "no thank you" to foreign troops, (hardly), or might some politician have ordered it taken down so he can make a grandstanding announcement for the six o'clock news? Just get on with it for goodness sake.

This was the original piece,

"Nepal Update: 36 Engineer Regiment have a Section deploying in support of the initial humanitarian response and to identify where support is most needed. A QGE Field Troop is ready to deploy with additional Field Troops preparing for deployment by the end of the week as required. Further updates will follow."

Everest - God Speed

Thoughts over the weekend and this morning are very much with the souls clinging to the side of Everest after the avalanche which tore down the hill and over the Khumba ice fall and Base Camp leaving climbers stranded above. I read that small helicopters are currently evacuating Camps 1 & 2, in shuttles, two climbers at a time. Thoughts too are with the all the kids out there doing high level treks in the region. I've been a parent waiting for a telephone call for good or bad news following an event, and after clinging to the side of the hill, its the second worse place in the world to be.

God Speed.

 

Blue Skies?

The view this morning from outside the office was nothing but uplifting. I think it’s the first blue sky I’ve seen this year!

Unlike some other parts of the country which continue to suffer although real perspective from the media was long since flushed away. Now though, that the pastures of South Western England are more easily identifiable with the paddy fields of South East Asia, and talk on the 06:00hrs from Haslemere is reminiscent of the Blitz, “I see Somerset was hit again last night,” “and they got the Rose & Crown in Chertsey,” it is reassuring that the governmental machine has at last rolled into action. Unfortunately, it again took a media storm and growing political embarrassment to force action to acknowledge the situation that the stoic citizens of the South West and elsewhere find themselves in and past errors of judgement which have exacerbated the problem.

Are not the floods though, another pressing indictment on short duration politics which constantly strive for immediate electoral favour without regard to long term unintended consequences? The paucity of multi decade planning is being laid bare across every part of our society and embrace energy, transport, defence, education and the vexatious issues of long term health and elderly care. We’ll have another opportunity to witness “last safe moment crisis management,” with the next financial crisis which is trundling down the tracks with an arrival time of later this year.

The political establishment would gather much more support if they focused more on doing the right thing, rather than always lurching for the politically expedient path. We’re not as stupid as they evidently think we are. 

A politician trying to look windswept & interesting (click)

Would it be too cynical to reflect that Berkshire and Surrey have been sacrificed to manage the water flow through London? As a plan it does have an economic logic although not for the citizens west of London. The flaw in the plan of course is that such is the weight of water, it’s displaying the temerity to go around the upstream weirs and is now encroaching as far as Richmond. Londoners may be phlegmatic but the floods are worsening, as evidenced by the Navy appearing upstream and not just the Army!  While politicians stare at the floods trying to look windswept and interesting, enquiring minds are left to ponder, what about the moles and is there any truth in the rumour that Somalian pirates have been spotted on the Somerset levels?

Sandbags.jpg

The drafting in of servicemen, if only to reassure citizens, is woefully overdue, even if they don't have the kit, (we sold it all), or training to make a significant difference. As Think Defence points out, using servicemen as general labour to fill sandbags, (probably because it fulfills some hearty belief in that's what soldiers do), is "pure tokenisim." 

There have been some suggestions of remustering the Civil Defence Corp. I think it's a great idea and long advocated here. Call it what you will, but a series of CDC detachments and or TA Royal Engineers stationed up and across the country with dedicated long term depots of food, fuel, light, shelter, pumps, earth moving kit, snow moving kit and so on to support the civil community in times of urgent need is an obvious good. It doesn't matter if they're young reserve soldiers or civilian middle aged and retired specialists, (perhaps a mixture of both), but the poverty of our preparations to deal with disaster is becoming a national embarrassment and a dereliction of duty by HMG. The Americans have FEMA , we've got a bunch of clowns in wellies. Mind you, in the US the Corp of Engineers look after the waterways but then they are almost half the size of the whole British Army.

Why doesn't it happen now? I suspect a mixture of self entitlement, self importance and self preservation from all currently involved. The whole structure, where one exists, needs a shake down.

For the moment, there are no winners. The Environment Agency has let itself and the country down, (even though many planning departments ignore their advice on developing on flood plains), the media are turning the whole thing into a hysterical circus with not even a crumb of scientific analysis, (Charles Glover's piece in the ST about farmers in Somerset putting their topsoil at risk in flooding by over planting with maize is an exception), Westminster have been shown to be the comedy act that they are and some householders have seen a lifetimes endeavor floating away toward the English Channel. All the rest of us, well we'll end up with the bill because we keep electing people with no vision, foresight or appreciation of risk.

Market watchers meanwhile are left to consider the weather impact on food prices. From the drought in California, the snowstorms across southern and eastern US, the hottest December on record in Brazil and our own floods there will be an inflationary impact to come on the High Street. 

Fukushima About To Get Smacked Again

Typhoon Man-yi has been battering Japan overnight with winds of over 100mph, flooding and evacuations in some areas, (260,000 in Kyoto, more in Shiga & Fukui).

As if things couldn’t get any worse at Fukushima this could be catastrophic with early reports suggesting that a dam of a tank has already overflowed due to high rainfall.  Right or wrong, the plant remains highly vulnerable and its clear to anyone who has been following events there since the 2011 earthquake that Tepco are utterly incompetent and the fuel rods continue to present a real threat not just to the rest of Japan but to neighbouring countries and beyond.

None of which is factored into markets at any level. For the sake of those living in Japan I hope the typhoon passes without incident but the margins of safety remain extremely precarious.

Unfortunately, absolutely nothing we have seen at any level in that country in respect of facing up to the disaster so far should give us any confidence. Oh and by the way, they can forget about the 2020 Olympics, that simply won't be happening anywhere close to Japan.

 

Heavy rain and strong winds from Typhoon Man-yi have caused the Katsura river to burst its banks and caused damage to buildings across western Japan as the storm made landfall on Monday. The Katsura river in Kyoto prefecture swelled up and flooded surrounding residential communities. Residents were being evacuated from the area.