Barely a week after Tanzania’s President John Magufuli ordered engineers to be sacked should a bridge (or any infrastructure) under their jurisdiction fails, the heavy toll of rains on infrastructure in the country has been estimated at 40bn/-
Its only the beginning of the first heavy rains season but infrastructures across the country are taken a heavy beating and succumbed. The damage caused is not only destroying bridges, rails and roads, it is also destroying careers as well.
The country’s President Dr. John Magufuli ordered sacking of any engineer where bridges and other infrastructures collapse, should they fail to respond accordingly. The president gave the order when visiting a damaged bridge that had rendered transportation null for over a fortnight on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.
Responding to the ongoing rains and the resulting damage to infrastructure, Mr. Isack Kamwelwe, the country’s Minister for Works, Transport and Communication, told media the damage to infrastructure was unforeseeable. Nonetheless he reassured the public that inspections are been conducted to ensure the integrity of infrastructures.
The responsible agency, Tanzania National Roads Agency (Tanroads) is now under pressure to ensure the safety of roads and bridges. The agency is now conducting surveys across the country and is expected to give a much higher figure of the rain caused damages.
Tanroads is also under scrutiny following the President’s orders to ensure swift maintenance is conducted to any damaged infrastructure, but the increasing rains are not making the job any easier.
On the up side of things, so far, the rains and resulting damage to properties has not cost any lives. There are reports however of causalities undergoing medical care and expected to recover.
All eyes are now on the Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA), the weather watchdog that is responsible for releasing weather forecast and pre-warning of impending bad weather. So far, the forecast is of heavy rains, higher than the seasons usual which spells trouble for all sectors.
Lessons from the past
Only a few months ago, at the onset of the rain period, the Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) was forced to move over 120 km of railway track to higher grounds because of rain damage.
The Exchange quoted TRC Director General Masanja Kadogosa admitting to the media that “…we are struggling to move the entire damaged 120 km railway section to an uphill area,” a daunting task indeed.
During that incident, Director General Kadogosa, said that the ruinous occurrence happens every other decade ‘huge weather damage completely destroys railway tracks.’
What is appalling about all this is that, it seems the damage can be foreseen, like the bad weather it can be predicated. So why then is it not prevented?
Of course it is too much to ask to secure 100 thousands of railway track but surely inspections over the course of a decade ought to reveal weak areas. Areas that have been made vulnerable by weathering elements can be detected and reinforced ahead of the rains.
Ok, the damage has occurred, let’s call it unavoidable damage, but since it can be expected to occur (only question is where it will happen) there should be pre set maintenance crew and equipment on standby.
As such, when it happens, as it inevitably will, then repair, one would assume, would be fast, swift and with no delay. But that is not the case, in fact, as pointed out earlier, it has taken executive intervention; President Magufuli ordering the firing of engineers that delay to respond to rain damage on infrastructure.
This year, the rains have yet to claim any causalities, but then again, and not to be pessimistic, but just taking a lesson from the past, the rains have just begun and with poor reaction preparations, lives will be lost.
During the same period last year, police recovered the bodies of two missing children after rains pounded the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam and gain destroyed infrastructure and other key facilities.
Before another tragedy occurs, it is imperative that authorities put on their disaster preparedness training to effect. We know bad weather is on the way, the Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA) has already issued the warning. So why not get ready?
The fire department in all regions of the country should be on alert, drainage system cleared and persons in flood prone areas moved to higher grounds. Even hospitals should be placed on alert, ready to receive emergency cases.
While the weather damage and the resulting disaster may be unstoppable, but we can learn from the past and prepare ourselves to respond promptly and in so doing save lives. It should also be announced regularly on mass and social media for the public to take heed as the rain seasons unfolds with all its might.