More rain forecast – All schools closed – MEW declares emergency – MPs demand compensation

KUWAIT: The Cabinet holds an extraordinary session yesterday. — KUNA

KUWAIT: The meteorological office issued weather warnings for the coming period, as clouds are accumulating above Kuwait, signaling possible heavy rain in the next hours and boosting the likelihood that floods may recur, particularly in some areas where the soil has been saturated with water from previous downpours. Meteorologist Abdulaziz Al-Qerawi said in a statement to KUNA that the deluge might begin in western parts of the country and gradually spread to central areas. Rainfall is forecast throughout today, with downpours in southern regions amid gales exceeding 60 km per hour, low visibility and seven-foot waves at sea.

The government meanwhile declared a public holiday today for all universities and schools due to the deteriorating weather conditions. Schools will reopen tomorrow after assessing the situation, the education ministry announced. Minister of Oil and Electricity and Water Bakheet Al-Rasheedi held a meeting yesterday of top ministry officials, announcing a state of emergency due to the forecast of torrential rain. Rasheedi directed the leaders to follow up on all services provided round the clock and keep in touch with all ministry administrations to secure production, transport and distribution stations. Plans were also announced to establish an “administrative zone” in north and south Kuwait to deal with the impact of torrential rain.

A large number of lawmakers yesterday called on the government to resign, accusing it of complete failure to face heavy torrential rains and thunderstorms that lashed the country for the second time in less than a week, causing the first casualty and severe damage. MPs insisted that the government had totally failed under the situation and accordingly it must resign immediately.

Several MPs headed by opposition MPs Shuaib Al-Muwaizri and Adel Al-Damkhi warned that if the government does not resign, they will grill Prime Minister HH Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah. Minister of Public Works Hussam Al-Roumi submitted his resignation in the face of devastation and material losses, but his resignation has not yet been officially accepted. Roumi yesterday toured the areas that have borne the brunt of unusually heavy downpours.

National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem called for a meeting of the government and MPs in his office today to discuss the consequences of the rainfall, but several opposition MPs said they will not attend. Ghanem said cooperation with state agencies should be given top priority in order to overcome the aftershock of the heavy rains. Speaking to reporters while checking the situation at a waterlogged bridge, he said it is now significant to work hard to reduce reflections and save lives, but later affected people will be compensated and those found negligent will be brought to book. He urged everyone to work together with concerned state agencies, primarily the ministry of interior, the army and National Guard to ensure the safety of people.

Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber yesterday chaired an extraordinary session of the Cabinet at the interior ministry’s headquarters to follow up on repercussions of the rain. The special session was held to follow up on results of the torrential rain and closely examine contingency plans for coping with conditions throughout the country for safeguarding people and properties, announced Deputy Premier and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh.

At onset of the session, the prime minister greeted the First Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on his safe return following recuperation abroad. The ministers then examined detailed reports on preparedness to cope with the extraordinary situation. The premier stressed during the session on the necessity of following up on the preparations to deal with all prospects, in light of the persistent bad weather.

He has affirmed that any flaws or cases of complacency and slackness will be pinpointed, emphasizing that officials responsible for the irregularities or who have failed to fulfill their duties properly will be named and shamed. Instant interrogations of the slack officials will be held, he warned. Saleh has also announced that the Cabinet session is open-ended – to proceed till the end of the extraordinary situation.

The ministry of education announced earlier yesterday that a number of schools are experiencing some technical problems. Classes at some schools with electrical problems may be suspended because “we do not want to risk our students’ lives,” said Ministry Acting Undersecretary Yousef Al-Najjar during an inspection tour in Ahmadi governorate. Najjar affirms that work is underway to clean schools that have experienced some problems, but the difficulty lies in how to access some others due to conditions of surrounding streets.

Last week the government sacked two senior public works officials, holding them responsible for failing to make the necessary preparations. Several MPs called on the government to compensate people for the losses sustained during the powerful thunderstorms that saw several areas in Kuwait receive more than the average annual rainfall of just over 100 mm.
MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari submitted a draft law calling for setting up a committee headed by a senior judge to look into compensating people for damages. Kandari also said all suspicious contracts must be investigated and the culprits should be referred to the public prosecution. Many areas, roads, bridges and houses were submerged and an unidentified number of vehicles were washed away.

Muwaizri said he will not attend the proposed MP-government meeting today, adding that this government does not deserve the confidence and if it does not step down, he vowed to grill the prime minister. MP Majed Al-Mutairi said the resignation of the entire government is not enough “because what happened is a disaster by all means and all those responsible – from officials to contracting companies – must be held to account”. Opposition MP Abdulwahab Al-Babtain said the government must resign immediately because it has contributed to damaging the properties of people as a result of its mismanagement.

By B Izzak and Agencies