Govt moves to avoid rain chaos – Assembly forms probe panel
KUWAIT: As torrential rains and thunderstorms continued yesterday, the government declared today a public holiday for schools and government departments after it had given a similar holiday yesterday. Government agencies this time looked much more prepared as the government utilized all the capabilities of the civil defense, municipality and the public works ministry, in addition to the police force and the fire department, which stood ready to deal with any flooding.
A police source yesterday said residency fines will not be collected from citizens whose helpers’ residencies – as well as expats whose residencies and that of their dependents – expired yesterday or will expire today, because these days were declared holidays due to weather conditions. The source added fines will not be collected for the four days from Wednesday through Saturday, and renewals will be made on Sunday. The interior ministry also decided not to renew residency permits of Bangladeshi and Nepalese workers without fingerprinting regardless of their residency type in the private sector.
The National Assembly yesterday formed a three-member committee to investigate allegations of government mismanagement and failure to deal with heavy rains that lashed the country in the past two weeks. The committee was assigned to investigate those responsible for the flooding of main roads and submit its report to the house within one month. The Assembly elected MPs Adel Al-Damkhi, Khaled Al-Otaibi and Dumaitheer Al-Enezi, who later resigned, and was replaced by MP Al-Humaidi Al-Subaei.
The formation of the committee came following a heated debate in the Assembly over what lawmakers claimed was a government failure and lack of preparedness to deal with the rains. MPs then approved a number of recommendations that included the formation of the committee and asking the government to provide the Assembly within one month of the results of its investigations into the disaster.
The lawmakers also approved a recommendation calling on the government to provide fair and urgent compensation for all those who suffered losses and damages because of the rain. They also called on the government to treat Ahmad Al-Fadhli, a stateless man who died because of the rains, as a martyr and to compensate his family.
At the start of the session, Public Works Minister Hussam Al-Roumi told the Assembly that government agencies are well prepared and ready to deal with the new wave of thunderstorms and possible flooding. He said the Mangaf underpass is currently operational but will be closed as a precautionary measure. He said the tunnel will be treated as a reservoir in the event of heavy rain reaching more than 30 mm to prevent rainwater from reaching surrounding houses.
“We now have large pumping machines and we can drain the tunnel. In case of heavy rains where there is no discharge of rainwater despite the presence of strong water drainage by the pumps, drainage systems may not be able to absorb the amount of rainwater, and God forbid, nearby homes may get flooded,” Roumi said. “So the tunnel will be transformed into a reservoir to protect the lives of citizens and residents, who are the most valuable and most important of all,” he added.
But MPs blasted the government during the debate, accusing it of failure to deal with the crisis, which led to severe damages. Opposition MP Abdulwahab Al-Babtain called on Roumi to insist on his resignation and to reject calls to withdraw it. He said if the minister withdraws the resignation, “why did the government sack two senior public works ministry officials, holding them responsible for the failure?”
MP Faisal Al-Kandari said that the public works minister should have said from the very beginning that the government agencies were not ready instead of searching for excuses. MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said that the Assembly will be committing another catastrophe if it allows this government to continue, calling for its resignation. MP Riyadh Al-Sane said what happened in Sabah Al-Ahmad area was a disaster and vowed to take action over it, adding that all those responsible must be held to account and said he will support the grilling against the prime minister.
MP Subaei said people who suffered losses in Sabah Al-Ahmad must be compensated immediately and responsible contractors should be held to account. He said forming a crisis committee in the country has become a necessity. The next Assembly session will be held on Nov 27.
By B Izzak and A Saleh