Editorial: Disasters Natural and Of Our Making

The country is once again mourning a significant loss of life due to natural disasters that we are largely powerless to do anything about. Tsunamis and volcanic eruptions are such overwhelming forces of nature that the only protection from them is to locate inland and away from the slopes what could run with lava.

The earthquake-triggered tsunami late on Monday off the west coast of Sumatra erased scores of villages on the Mentawai islets and killed at least 343 people while 338 are still reported as missing. Further east, Indonesia’s most active volcano, Mt Merapi in Central Java, spewed out lava and ash clouds that choked and burned to death some 32 people on its flanks as it gears up for a predicted major eruption.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the deceased and their families, that after they have grieved they can move on from these tragedies.

Any aid that was promised this week from foreign governments, Australia and the United States among them, that is taken up must be directly channelled to the victims and not be held up in an endless cycle of local bureaucracy where there are real risks that some of it can disappear.

We do, meanwhile, have a choice in the business of living when dealing with disasters of our own making.

In Bali a manmade catastrophe is unfolding, one that has seen more than 100 people die from a disease that can easily be wiped out — by exterminating the hosts — but is ravaging the island because of official ineptitude and acquiescence to dog-loving foreigners with their heads in the clouds.

As this newspaper was reporting the latest claims this week by the Bali Animal Husbandry Agency, the government body coordinating a vaccination of 400,000 stray dogs in a bid to eradicate rabies — that 60 percent of the strays have been inoculated since the programme began on September 28 (260,000 dogs) — our readers around the island were reporting back that they had seen no such official activity in their areas.

Last week the head of the agency, Putu Sumantra, the designated vaccination spokesman, told The Bali Times the job was done apart from two small villages. The Bali Animal Welfare Association, in Ubud, which is carrying out the inoculation scheme, would not provide any clarification; and all the World Society for the Protection of Animals in London would say is that they believed the programme had not ended, and that thus far only two of Bali’s eight regencies and one municipality (Denpasar) had been completed.

Following Mr Sumantra’s new 60 percent figure that he provided to reporters this week, this newspaper again probed, ending up again in London, where we were told we had asked “many questions,” there were no experts available to answer them and we would be better off talking to the Bali government.

If this is not a wild goose chase, we don’t know what is. What we also know is that, going on the latest government infection rates among wild dogs, almost 11 percent of Bali’s vast number of strays – estimated around 560,000 – are walking the streets of the island and killing people. There were more deaths this week.

And all the while those running the elimination show are fiddling.

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