The Viridian Design Movement

Viridian Note 00282: Maghreb Floods

Bruce Sterling []

Key Concepts
North Africa, weather anomalies, Morocco, Algeria, Wexelblat disasters, mujihadeen, COP-7

Attention Conservation Notice
It's about bad weather in Africa.


Hey, wow. My non-Viridian blog is back up.

Lots of fab web hijinks from British people who despise ExxonMobil.

Artbyte croaks, WIRED fires staff; leave it to R. U. Sirius to launch a new magazine for the cyberdisaffected.


"Algeria's worst floods in 40 years kill 579

"November 12, 2001 Posted: 2126 GMT

"ALGIERS, Algeria (Reuters) == Algeria's worst floods in nearly 40 years have killed at least 579 people, with 538 dead in the capital, Algiers, alone, state media reported Monday.

"A further 316 people were injured and five were officially reported missing, although that number was expected to climb as the cleanup continued. (((And indeed that number did climb; see followup.)))

"The government declared three days of national mourning starting Tuesday.

"The flash floods did most damage in Algiers' densely populated working-class district of Bab el Oued. Muddy waters cascaded down a main road, leaving many buried under collapsed buildings or drowned in their cars.

"'In terms of the number of deaths and damage, a (flood) disaster like this hasn't happened in 39 years,' a senior official at the Territorial Development Ministry said. (...)

"In Raspail alley, young volunteers dug with shovels through dried mud that rose up to 6 feet high. Asked if they had found bodies, 28-year-old Hamid Ridouche replied, 'You are now walking on a cemetery.' (((Nice soundbite, Hamid. You should go into journalism.)))

"About 5,500 families were left homeless, including 2,072 in Algiers, a hilly city of 3.5 million, official figures showed.

"The flash floods came after heavy rain and strong gales Friday and Saturday lashed coastal parts of Africa's second largest country, which extends far south into the Sahara Desert. (...)

"The government of Prime Minister Ali Benflis, under heavy fire from the press for its apparent failure to cope in time with the disaster, said it would give emergency financial aid to families who lost loved ones and their homes. (((People always blame the government during Greenhouse events. The government always distributes bailout tax money. If the victims would just hit up ExxonMobil, ConocoPhilips and ChevronTexacoDynegyEnron, wow, would solar power ever look cheap.)))

((((Here comes the good part.)))

"Residents said the disaster could have been avoided if authorities had not sealed underground sewers running through Bab el Oued three years ago.

"The move was to keep Islamic rebels from using the ducts as hiding places in their 10-year-long bloody campaign against the military-backed government.

"'These tunnels could have channeled away a large amount of water and avoided the catastrophe,' said Mustapha Dajaballah. (((Now there's a curiosity for you, ladies and gentlemen: it's a Mujihadeen-Related Wexelblat Disaster. And it's rather unlikely to be the last. Imagine trying to flee an American flood or hurricane under conditions of tight security lockdown. What if those facial-recognition units fritz out down at the bus station?)))

Sources: Reuters, Yahoo

(((We Viridians dote on found, concrete web-poetry.)))

"In-depth coverage about Algeria: Related News Stories "Algeria army helps flood victims - BBC (Nov 18, 2001) "Algerians Seek Relatives and Friends in Morgues - Reuters (Nov 16, 2001) "Floods leave trail of destruction - BBC (Nov 15, 2001) "Chances of Finding Algiers Flood Survivors Dwindle - Reuters (Nov 15, 2001) "Major appeal for Algerian flood victims - BBC (Nov 13, 2001)

(((Then combine all that stuff with:)))

"Algeria under Siege - Media Monitors Network (Jun 27, 2001) "Political Crisis Brewing in Algeria - Radio Netherlands (Jun 19, 2001) "Unrest in Algeria - NY Times (registration req'd) (Jun 19, 2001) (((etc etc)))

"Devastation Follows Algerian Storms

By HASSANE MEFTAHI, Associated Press Writer

"ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) == Massive floods and mudslides that devastated northern Algeria and killed more than 700 people have caused nearly $300 million worth of damage, the interior minister said Sunday.

"Heavy rains pounded the capital and nearby areas starting on Nov. 9, and the resulting mudslides knocked down buildings, overturned vehicles and filled roads with mounds of dirt and debris. The official death count on Sunday was at 729, with 170 people still missing. Hundreds were injured. (...)

"Specialists in disease control were working in the worst-hit areas to monitor drinking water and drainage canals. Mustapha Bouziane, a top health official in the capital, Algiers, said authorities had so far seen no signs that contagious diseases were spreading. (((Oh good. Note exploding-sewers angle.)))

"Bulldozers continued to chip away at mounds of hardened mud, debris and crushed vehicles that filled the streets of the devastated neighborhood of Bab el-Oued, where efforts focused on a market covered over by dirt. (((Now check this out.))) Security forces blocked traffic routes leading to the worst-hit neighborhoods. (((In a Moodge situation, the worst neighborhoods in town are the security threat.)))

"Officials gave up hope of finding more survivors on Wednesday, and workers turned from rescue to cleanup and moved in with heavy-duty machinery.

"Algerians have vehemently criticized the government's handling of the crisis, saying it was slow and inefficient. In some neighborhoods, spontaneous demonstrations have broken out whenever public officials appeared."

(((You know, maybe it was a pretty good idea to hold the climate change talks in nearby Morocco.)))

Source: Associated Press, Jamey Keaten

"Weather Looms Large at Climate Talks 

"By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press Writer

"MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) == Its limited forests are dwindling, its desert is encroaching on more villages and drought is becoming more frequent. If any country knows the meaning of climate change, it's Morocco. (...)

"For the thousands of delegates gathered at the Marrakech conference, which ends Friday, the weather has been unusually dry. It should be the height of the rainy season. (...)

"Droughts have become more common over the last two decades. Four of the 11 droughts in the last century occurred in the decade from the mid-1980s to the mid- 1990s.

"Areas of Morocco now suffer from a four-year drought that has depleted water tables, browned the landscape and wreaked havoc on farmers.

"Hydroelectric plants, one of the country's few homegrown sources of energy, are operating at a fraction of capacity because of lower water levels.

"Meanwhile, desertification threatens rural lifestyles, such as in the usually verdant Ourika valley in southern Morocco. (...)

"Environmental degradation is contributing to the problem. Forests cover only about one-fifth of Morocco, and are disappearing at the rate of more than 82,500 acres per year. (...)

"Morocco is taking small steps to combat global warming and reduce dependency on imported oil. Small-scale pilot projects with solar, hydraulic and wind power have been successful, Benallou said. (((That would be Abdehanine Benallou, the head of Morocco's Center for Development of Renewable Energies.))) He hopes to build on them to provide renewable energy for 7.5 million rural residents who now light their homes with kerosene lamps and power their televisions off car batteries.

On Saturday, Benallou's center unveiled a 10-year program to increase reliance on renewable energy to 10 percent, from about 1.5 percent now. The plan drew on advice from the U.S. Department of Energy."

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