Mexico: Statistical Rain Dance In Tabasco Fiasco?

https://i0.wp.com/images.tvnz.co.nz/tvnz_images/news2007/world_disasters/mexicofloods_232_031107.jpg
Tabasco: The mud and the blood and the beer. Source: TVNZ

Government shines more, politically speaking, in confronting the emergency than in preventing it.

One for the Wall Street Journal‘s Numbers Guy — if he survives the coming purge — and Naomi Klein’s theory of “disaster capitalism”: The FT-style “intelligence unit” at El Financiero (Mexico) questions whether the recent floods in Tabasco were really as bad as people said.

The Tabasco floods were widely characterized by critics of the government as a sort of Mexican Katrina.

Pro-government headlines tended to promote moral panic over looting and public disorder in the aftermath.

Mario Garza Salinas, experto en protección civil y prevención de desastres, y uno de los más autorizados para analizar lo ocurrido en Tabasco, asegura en entrevista que se sobredimensionó la catástrofe. “Un reporte el Centro Nacional de Huracanes de Estados Unidos indica que el nivel de la precipitación pluvial que cayó en Tabasco fue mucho menor a lo que reporta Conagua; especialistas de la UNAM lo reconfirman. El discurso político busca evadir responsabilidades diciendo: como fueron cuestiones naturales, no pudimos hacer nada. Eso es como lavarse las manos.”

Mario Garza Salinas, an expert in civil defense and disaster prevention, and one of the experts with the most authority to analyze what took place in Tabasco, told us in an interview that the dimensions of catastrophe were exaggerated. “A report from the National Hurricane Center in the United States indicates that the level of precipitation that fell onTabasco was much lower than that reported by Conagua; UNAM specialists confirm this. The political discourse on the event is trying to avoid responsibility by saying, Because these were natural phenomena, we could do nothing. It is a way of washing one’s hands.”

The Peruvian government shut down radio stations in the region of Pisco recently, claiming that irresponsible broadcasters were exaggerating the magnitude of a recent seismic event in the region.

See

The reporting in support of that case, from the Agencia Peru, does not show the broadcaster in question promoting the allegedly fraudulent claim, however. The charge against him remains unsubstantiated, in that sense.

In a clip published to YouTube by the radio station’s owner, meanwhile, the principal topic of discussion was alleged waste, fraud and abuse in the relief effort. See also

There again, however, it was the case that local seismographic experts, as quoted in the press, originally reported a 6.9 tremor, then corrected themselves when U.S. seismologists reported a 7.9 event.

Sus reportes indican que los damnificados sumaron entre 450 mil y 500 mil, y no un millón, como dice el gobernador. La entidad tiene un millón cien mil habitantes, se inundó 60 por ciento del territorio, 80 mil comunidades afectadas; el sector agropecuario fue el más dañado, el área urbana fue gravemente afectada.

His reports indicate that persons affected by the flood amount to 400,000-500,000, not one million, as the governor states. The state has 1.1 million inhabitants, experienced flooding in 60% of its territory, and 80,000 communities were affected; the agrobusiness sector was the most damaged, and urban areas wre seriously affected as well.

Agrega que la causa fue la combinación de factores y es la primera entrega que hace el cambio climático a México. En Tabasco no se aprendieron las lecciones de 1999, cuando se otorgaron recursos extras por mil 890 millones de pesos para hacer obras de infraestructura y mitigación en las márgenes del río Grijalva. Protección Civil estatal no ha trabajado en la capacitación ni en la difusión de medidas preventivas. Los planes de evacuación no se han diseñado, o se desconoce cómo hacerlos.

He says the cause was a combination of factors and is the Mexico’s first experience of the effects of global warming. In Tabasco, the lessons of 1999 were not learned, after 1.9 billion pesos were allocated to infrastructure projects and mitigation on the banks of the Grijalva River. The state civil defense agency did not conduct training or broadcast preventive measures. Evacuation plans were either never drawn up or else no one knows how to execute them.

“Todo esto hace inferir que quizá no se operó adecuadamente el desfogue de la presa Peñitas. El exceso de agua pudo deberse a una mala decisión que inundó Tabasco. El volumen usual en esta temporada aumentó tres veces, pero se exageró al decir que cayeron cuatro o cinco veces más de agua”. Hacer obra pública es importante para la prevención; de no ser así, los planes estatales y municipales de protección civil no operan, asegura.

“All of this leads me to conclude that perhaps the [runoff safety valve] of the Peñitas Dam did not operate properly.” The excess of water may be due to a poor decision that led to the flooding of Tabasco. The normal seasonal volume of rain increased three-fold, but it is an exaggeration to say that four or five times more water fell.” Public works are essential to prevention; without them, state and municipal civil defense plans are unworkable, he says.

Let me see if I can confirm from the newsflow that such statements are being promoted, and how heavily, and by whom.

A 22 años de los sismos de 1985, refiere, como avances importantes, la creación del Sistema Nacional de Protección Civil, el Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres, la ampliación del Plan DN-3 y la investigación universitaria, pero todavía no se ha arraigado una cultura de prevención.

Some 22 years after the earthquakes of 1985, he says, there have been important avances, such as the creation of the National Civil Defense, the National Disaster PreventionCenter, the broadening of Plan DN-3, and university research, but a culture of prevention has not yet taken root.

México carece de políticas de Estado en prevención de desastres, pero el Sistema de Alerta Temprana de Huracanes ha ayudado a disminuir la pérdida de vidas. Los desastres afectan gravemente la economía, el huracán Stan (2005) afecto un punto del PIB; los sismos de 1985 fueron de 4.5 por ciento del PIB. Los desastres se vuelven una deseconomía, son problemas no resueltos del desarrollo. Los políticos no hacen caso a los académicos; a veces los convocan pero todo se queda en el discurso.

Mexico lacks state policy on disaster prevention, but the Hurricane Early-Warning System has helped to diminish loss of life. Disasters seriously affect the economy. Hurricane Stan (2005) shaved one point off GDP. The 1985 quakes subtracted 4.5% of GDP. Disasters have become sort of an antieconomy, are unresolved problems of economic development. Politicians do not listen to academic experts; they occasionally call them to testify, but it never gets beyond talk.

Las prioridades que debe considerar la agenda emergente son: atender a la población; darle seguridad y protección; hacer la reconstrucción, desinfección y atención a la salud, así como reactivar la economía regional.

The priorities of the emerging disaster-prevention agenda are: Service to the population; providing safety and protection; reconstruction, disinfection and health care, as well as restarting the regional economy.

Políticamente, la prevención no tiene una tasa de regreso, por eso se prefiere diseñar una política reactiva de protección civil y no una de prevención. Luce más atender la emergencia que preverla.

Politically, prevention brings no return on investment, which is why politicians have preferred a reactive civil defense policy rather than one of prevention. Government shines more in confronting the emergency than in preventing it.

There was an interesting case of moral panic on the TV news here in São Paulo yesterday after a 7.7 earthquake in Chile was reportedly felt by local residents, particularly those in tall buildings.

[Concrete, rather than steel-frame, construction is the norm for the São Paulo highrise — which is why you have a city of tens upon tens of thousands of 15-story buildings.]

Globo News, for example, dedicated extensive airtime to a (single) building evacuation, even while reporting that no structural damage was reported. “The reaction did not reach the level of panic, but people were nervous,” the talking head intoned. It then interviewed one person who said she was nervous.

This segment of the report was considerably longer than actual reporting on the ground from Chile, which was phoned in and run as (nearly inaudible) voiceover over (bad) stock footage shot by somebody else.

Globo is constantly touting its technically prowess and technologically advanced reporting, but really, what I tend to see is an astonishing amount of pure, gabbling cheapness.

Like the segment on the TAM crash in which they filmed an “expert” reproducing the landing using Microsoft flight simulation software on a PC in the newsroom.

Strong emotional reactions to simulated events.

Ecce Globo.

GN then ran an infographic showing five or six parts of the city affected: Pinheiros, Mooca, the Paulista, and so on.

How it is that other neighborhoods were spared by the concentrically propagating seismic waves remains something of a scientific mystery. Did they paint their doorways with the blood of a lamb?

You would think that if anyone would feel the collateral effects, it would be the Paraguayans, there in between the Chileans and the Paulistas, along with the gauchos, maybe, and the good people of Cuiabá . No panic reported in Porto Alegre, either, which according to the maps I saw is actually closer to the zone.

We were in one of the “affected areas” of city at the time, in the subway, waiting on a train, and felt nothing.

The tenor of this tidal wave of reporting being, in essence:

Big quake in Chile! How this affects you! (Basically, it doesn’t).

Given that we have relatives in Santiago, we would have actually been much more interested in knowing how it affected Chileans.

We wound up getting much, more more information on that angle to the story from IMing the mapuche branch of the clan ourselves. But they, of course, were still in the dark about a lot of things themselves.  (We may spend our holidays in Isla Negra this year.)

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