Gustav careens across the Caribbean, leaving death and destruction as it careens. The storm slams into the US Gulf Coast just west of where Katrina did three years ago. This time, much of that coast has been evacuated, and Gustav hasn't turned out quite the monster it was anticipated to be -- so it's not the immense disaster of '05. But still, watching images from New Orleans and Biloxi briefly on TV has been sobering. Close to a million people evacuated.
Water pours from a canal as it might slop from a full bathtub, high winds lash the trees, homes are inundated to nearly their eaves, cars lie mostly submerged ... I have friends in New Orleans, and they were packing to leave for Memphis the last time I spoke to them. I don't know where they are now, but like others from New Orleans, they must be worried about the home they have left behind, about what they will return to.
And then there are the images from Bihar, no less sobering. The vast expanse of floodwaters, interrupted only by thin strips of slightly higher land, usually roads. In some places, the flood has been six metres deep, think of that. Nearly two stories of an average high-rise. And along those roads, people running somewhere, possibly for a boat, or for relief materials. Some reports I've seen talk of half a million who were evacuated from the region. Two million displaced. In New Orleans, those kinds of numbers gone empties the city; in Bihar, it still leaves plenty of runners on those strips.
Also the usual stories of government sloth, incompetence, cheating by boat owners and others. (For example, here). And to go with that, tales of selfless aid. If there was all that after Katrina, it's there in Bihar.
Developed country, developing country, country of the 20th, country of the 21st, images and stories, sometimes it all looks the same. So why is it that tragedy in Bihar seems sculpted on a far bigger scale?