[EDITORIALS]Suffering and bureaucracy

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[EDITORIALS]Suffering and bureaucracy

Residents in flooded areas of the Nakdong River, including Gimhae in South Gyeongsang province, are still unable to return to their regular lives because flood waters have not yet receded from their villages after 10 days. The despair felt by the villagers is heightened by the delays and halfhearted efforts of the government in its relief measures. That drove one disabled man in his 50s, whose house and land were severely damaged by the flood, to commit suicide by drinking poison.

The government has designated three regions, Gimhae, Haman and Hapcheon, as "severe disaster areas" only 10 days after the flooding. This government move allows the supply of equipment and manpower to help the region and the calculation of damage compensation. It took the government that long to provide such simple assistance even though the flood victims were facing the danger that their homes would collapse and that epidemic diseases would break out. Such ineptitude has made disaster relief a disaster in itself. Good-hearted but uncoordinated intentions mean that unnecessary relief goods pile up while urgently needed goods are lacking. Nearly half the residents in these flooded areas are already suffering from eye and skin diseases, and they depend on instant noodles for their meals.

The flood victims claim that this disaster was caused by faulty construction work on embankments and slipshod river dredging. They say officials ignored residents' demands for drainage facilities. They oppose the government's decision to call their hometowns a "severe disaster area" and demand to be designated as a "special disaster area." A "special disaster area" is an area struck by man-made, in contrast to natural, disasters and would require the government to make full compensation.

The Grand National Party wants the law changed so that natural disaster areas could also get the "special disaster area" status and be entitled to more aid. Seoul should not wait for changes in the law to provide more concrete assistance to the victims.

It is a shame to watch the squabble over whether the disaster is man-made or natural while the victims suffer. If problems with the wording or intent of the law is the issue, it should be corrected quickly so that the next natural disaster will be handled better.

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