A manmade disaster
The resort island of Jeju was isolated for 42 hours over the weekend as the worst blizzard in 32 years closed off sky and sea routes. Over 100,000 people were stranded and more than 1,000 were forced to claim whatever space was available in the densely packed airport for two nights. The provisional government organized an emergency task force and handed out food and blankets, but the supplies were hardly enough, casting a shadow on the reputation of the country’s most-sought resort destination that draws over 25,000 tourists a year.
Natural disasters cannot be avoided. But poor snow clearance and passenger care worsened the disaster. The provisional government and airport authority should have been better prepared as there had been forecasts about blizzard and strong wind. They have not only been negligent in preparing against the weather, but also reacted sloppily in the emergency situation. Some airliners kept passengers sitting in planes on the snowy runway for hours while others failed to notify passengers of flight cancellations ahead of time.
To prevent similar mishaps, local government, airport authorities and airliners must reinforce their crisis management. The airport must upgrade its manual for disasters and regularize drills. Even if natural disasters cannot be prevented, it is up to human resources to minimize the damage and inconvenience they cause. Organized and meticulous crisis management will make the island a safe and reliable tourist destination. These steps are a must as global warming makes the climate less and less predictable.
But what shone most brightly during the fiasco in Jeju was the power and generosity of the island’s citizens. Residents offered free lodging to people stranded at the airport as well as food and supplies.
Now, local authorities must use their leadership and organizational skills to strengthen the island’s ability to handle natural disasters, making it a reliable place for all to visit. JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 26, Page 34
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