Disasters, Deaths, Decisions

I figure the best way to deal with a hurricane or typhoon is to be somewhere else.

That’s not always possible, so ‘how to survive’ advice generally talks about how to cope with wind, rain and flooding.

Some advice may seem obvious, like boarding up windows and having supplies on hand.

Some maybe doesn’t, like avoiding the attic when flood waters rise. Going up another floor to stay dry might seem reasonable at the time. Trouble starts if the water keeps rising. When that happens, having a hatch to the roof or some way to break through the roof is a good idea:

News here in America has been focusing on the usual political fracas and celebrity shenanigans. But there’s a bit about the east coast storm, too.


(From Reuters, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“Trees were downed across North Carolina amid high winds”
(BBC News))

At Least 14 Dead In Carolinas And ‘The Worst Flooding Is Yet To Come’ In Some Areas
Emily Sullivan, NPR (September 15, 2018)

“Florence weakened to a tropical depression Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, but flooding continued to be a major danger throughout the Carolinas.

“North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the storm is more dangerous now than when it made landfall. ‘Flood waters are still raging across parts of our state, and the risk to life is rising with the angry waters,’ Cooper said in a news conference on Sunday….”

More than a dozen folks have died so far in this storm. Some drowned, debris hit others. At least one died when a chimney fell on him.

A mother and her child died when a tree fell on their house. Emergency crews found her husband in the wreckage, alive. He’s been taken to a hospital.

I don’t think the house in the Reuters/BBC photo was theirs. The Independent article showed what looks like a different neighborhood.

Meanwhile, folks living near the western Pacific Ocean have another storm to deal with.1

In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

(From Reuters, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“A building used as a refuge by miners and their families was crushed by landslides”
(BBC News))

Typhoon Mangkhut: Miners and families buried by landslide
(September 17, 2018)

Rescuers in the Philippines are digging through mud to retrieve bodies buried by a landslide that hit as Typhoon Mangkhut battered the country.

“At least 32 people in the mining town of Itogon, in Benguet province, were crushed in a single shelter.

“Teams are raking through the rubble with their bare hands, passing blocks of concrete and pieces of wood down a 50ft line to clear the area….”

My guess is that Mangkhut 2018 will end more lives than Florence. I could be wrong about that. Both storms are still in progress, and the resulting floods won’t go away quickly. We may hear about more collapsed hillsides and crushed shelters.

I figure the folks near Itogon were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — but for the right reasons.

“…A group of artisanal goldminers in the village of Ucab, which lies in a valley in Itogon municipality, had huddled with their families in a two-storey shelter, Conrad Navidad of the International Organization for Migration told the BBC. The building was crushed, and 29 people remain missing.

“‘It was used as a worship area for the church group of the mine workers and their families,’ said Mr Navidad, who was at the scene earlier on Monday. ‘Before the typhoon hit, their pastor invited them to take refuge in that bunkhouse – and then the disaster happened and they were buried by the landslide.

“‘They are not hoping for survivors anymore – just for the retrieval of the bodies buried.’…”
(BBC News)

My ‘at the wrong place’ view isn’t the only possible assumption.

Maybe nobody will see the Itogon tragedy as a real-life melodrama. But the potential is here for at least two sorts of rant.

‘And the Moral of this Storm Is – – – ???’

Folks favoring older traditions might figure the dead and missing were guilty of being in the ‘wrong’ church. Or maybe for being gold miners — worshiping mammon and all that.

That sort of thing is a perennial favorite. (September 10, 2017)

Katrina: God’s Judgment on America
Anonymous; Restore America, via Beliefnet (2005)

“… There was the burgeoning Gulf Coast gambling industry, with a new casino that was to open on Labor Day weekend. But of course, what is a little gambling if it supports ‘education’ and brings revenue into government coffers? And then there was the 34th Annual gay, lesbian and transgender ‘Southern Decadence’ Labor Day gala to be held from August 31st to September 5th….”

The more avant-garde might see gold mining as an affront to Mother Nature, who rose in fury against the despoilers:

Jennifer Lawrence calls hurricanes ‘Mother Nature’s rage and wrath’
Christian Holub, Entertainment Weekly (September 8, 2017)

“Jennifer Lawrence says the deadly hurricanes that have formed in the Atlantic Ocean over the last month — including Hurricane Irma, which is set to batter Florida this weekend — are the result of ‘Mother Nature’s rage and wrath….”

Forget ‘saving the Earth’ – it’s an angry beast that we’ve awoken
Clive Hamilton, The Conversation (May 27, 2014)

“Environmentalism is undergoing a radical transformation. New science has shown how long-held notions about trying to ‘save the planet’ and preserve the life we have today no longer apply.

“Instead, a growing chorus of senior scientists refer to the Earth with metaphors such as ‘the wakened giant’ and ‘the ornery beast’, a planet that is ‘fighting back’ and seeking ‘revenge’, and a new era of ‘angry summers’ and ‘death spirals’….”

Me? I think storms are dangerous. Sometimes people die during storms. Some are careless. Some do everything they reasonably can to stay alive, and die anyway.

Life happens. Sometimes it’s pleasant. Sometimes it’s anything but.

I figure that whatever happens to me, pleasant or otherwise, what matters most is what I do about the experience. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1704-1707, 1730, 1852-1869)

Disasters, Decisions

(From Author Anthony Ivanoff, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(What’s left of trees and barricades in Hong Kong, near Hennessy Road, St. Paul’s Convent School and Yee Wu Street.)

Mangkhut 2018 is over the mainland now, giving folks in southern China trouble. Meanwhile, survivors in the Philippines are dealing with ‘after the storm’ issues:

I think we get information about disasters more quickly than we did in my youth.

That could be a problem if I decided to fret about them, or — perhaps worse — enjoy watching others suffer. Or decide that folks who aren’t near me don’t matter.

Knowing that others are suffering won’t do much good, if I can’t or won’t do anything about that knowledge.

There are, happily, a few things I can do. Like share ‘how you can help’ links you may not have seen on the national news:

Sin and All That

Even if I didn’t ‘feel like’ caring about what happens to folks in places I’ve never seen, apathy isn’t an option.

If I take my faith seriously, I’ll at least try to love my neighbors — and see everyone as a neighbor, no matter who or where they are. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2537; Catechism, 1706, 1776, 1825, 1849-1851, 1955)

I should be promoting truth and justice, contributing to the common good and getting involved as best I can. Acting as if mercy matters is another good idea. (Catechism, 1915, 2239, 2447, 2472, 2475-2487)

I can use suffering, joy, any experience, as a reason to pray and rejoice. (1 Thessalonians 5:1618; Catechism, 2648)

None of that is easy. But it’s still a good idea.

I should also try to avoid sinning. That’ll be a tad less difficult if I’ve got a clue as to what “sin” means.

Turns out that it’s pretty simple.

Sin is deliberately doing something that hurts myself or others. It’s doing something that doesn’t make sense in the long run. It’s an offense against reason and God (Catechism, 1846-1869)

Putting the almighty buck, fame, good looks, or anything other than God at the top of my priorities is a bad idea. Living for nothing but my career, for example, would be wrong. But working is a good idea. It’s what we’re supposed to do. Within reason. (Catechism, 378, 531, 2112-2114, 2172)

I take sin and all that seriously.

But I don’t see virtue in either hurling epithets at ‘those sinners over there,’ or trying to make myself feel miserable because I’m a wretched sinner.

That gets me back to typhoons, hurricanes and other disasters.

I don’t see calamities as ‘God’s judgment on those sinners over there.’ On the other hand, I don’t think they’re meaningless. They’re opportunities to practice charity: which is a virtue. (Catechism, 1813, 1822-1829)

Disasters can also be a good reminder that I’ve only got so much time to “work out” my salvation. (Philippians 2:12)

Not that I can work my way into heaven. (March 11, 2018)

Using the Brains God Gave Us

I’ve seen some of the usual ‘be very afraid’ stuff in op-eds, along with one refreshingly sane look at what’s been happening over the last few decades.

I think folks on all sides of the ‘climate and environment’ hullabaloo would be well-advised to turn the hysteria down a notch or two.

I also think that studying this world, developing new tools, using the brains God gave us, is a good idea. It’s part of being human. (Catechism, 159, 214-217, 283, 294, 341, 2292-2295)

Part of our job is taking care of this world. We can and should use its resources: wisely, keeping future generations in mind. (Catechism, 2415-2418, 2456)

More about that, and what my family’s experiencing at the moment:

1 This month’s big storms:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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