Sunday, June 23, 2013

Stranger in Bangkok's take on the haze situation in Singapore

For last few days, my Facebook newsfeed and various LINE chat groups have been dominated by 1 topic: the haze situation in Singapore. It even managed to hog the headlines on Bangkok Post. Looking at the PSI high of 400 and the dramatic exchanges between Indonesia and Singapore, no wonder it is THE biggest news now.

The mad scramble for N95 masks, as well as the calls for the government to do more reminded me very much about the catastrophic floods in Thailand almost exactly 2 years ago. Although I was technically untouched by the floodwaters during that ordeal, I think the mental stress I had experienced bear a lot of similarities to what the folks in Singapore are going through now.

Firstly, both 'disasters' are somewhat caused by nature. Yes, I know, Indonesia should really stop burning forests every year and the Thai government can do more to regulate the water levels in dams upcountry to avoid floods, but the wind directions are not in Singapore's favour, neither was the amount of rain in Thailand two years ago. These were major factors that no one could really control.

The people in Thailand waited and waited for the government to react properly, but after countless promises, alarm signals were not even given on time. Frequently, districts were flooded before flood warnings were received. People ended up fending for themselves. It was pretty frantic, but unity and love would finally prevail and the country emerged from it arguably stronger than before.

In terms of efficiency, there is no comparison between the governments in Thailand and Singapore. It is natural to expect a better response from the Singapore government to help its people in need because of its track record and the smaller country size and population, but no matter what the authorities do, they cannot please everyone. Even if they can please most, you might not fall into that category. The point I am trying to make is, you have to help yourself first.

By helping yourself, I don't mean hoarding. During the flood saga, I could not even conveniently find drinking water, rice, canned food and instant noodles in supermarkets because of a small proportion of frantic people who swept everything off the shelves. Fortunately, because of my connections, I was lucky to obtain enough drinking water to last my family for weeks, then started distributing the same amount of water to all my staff to prepare them for the worst. I learnt not to rely on numbers or statistics given by authorities, but to prepare ourselves sufficiently, then start helping the others you love around you.

From these 2 cases, we have been abruptly reminded of the forces of nature and the hard fact that no one can truly escape from them, regardless of where we are geographically located.

Please take good care of yourselves and your loved ones, wear masks when required and drink plenty of water. May all of us eventually emerge stronger, or at the very least, more prepared in every way for the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.

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