Time for Better Disaster Management System
Record snowfall on Monday proved how difficult it is to make an exact weather forecast despite advanced science and technology. It blanketed the central part of the Korean Peninsula, causing traffic chaos and massive flight cancellations. Particularly, the capital city was severely hit by 27 centimeters of snow in the first work day of the New Year, marking the largest single-day snowfall since the nation began conducting meteorological surveys in 1937.
Clogged roads forced people to arrive at work late in Seoul and other big cities. A large crowd of commuters rushing to subways also experienced inconveniences due to delayed train operations caused by technical glitches and malfunctions. Sub-zero temperatures aggravated the situation. Many motorists abandoned their cars on the roads. Even some ministers were late for a Cabinet meeting that was forced to begin later than scheduled.
It is often said that natural disasters are acts of God. So, all the chaos and inconvenience created by the snowfall appeared to have been beyond human control. And it might not be proper to blame someone for the relentless natural phenomenon. But we have to overhaul the nation's preparedness for natural disasters to better protect people and their properties from potential calamities.
First, we need timely and accurate weather forecasts. The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) should play an ever more important role in providing detailed information about weather changes. But we have to ask: Did the KMA do its best to make a precise prediction about Monday's snowfall? Clearly not, since the KMA said the previous day that the snowfall would amount to only 2 to 7 centimeters in Seoul and its surrounding areas.
Of course, this is not to say the weather agency should make perfect predictions. But, critics often point out that the KMA has frequently been wrong and answered criticism by placing the blame on extremely changeable meteorological conditions. More disappointing is that the KMA issued a belated warning at 8:20 a.m. after as much as 15 centimeters of snow had fallen. The administration has already installed two up-to-date supercomputers. It has also recruited an American expert to improve its forecasting capabilities. But it has come under fire for failing to upgrade its software programs for more precise predictions. It is imperative that the KMA go all-out to find a fundamental solution to its problem.
Second, local authorities have poorly coped with the situation. The Seoul metropolitan government must realize that it cannot properly maintain the roads by only running snow-plowing trucks and spraying chemical calcium chloride. It mobilized 3,600 employees to clear away the snow. But, the municipal authorities cannot avoid criticism that their bureaucratic attitude and negligence have stood in the way of tackling unusual weather conditions. The authorities need to work with the central government to put a more effective disaster management system in place.
Third, citizens are also urged to actively cooperate with the authorities to minimize the fallout of such unpredictable weather changes. They are required to clear away snow around their homes as stipulated by local regulations. In addition, people must refrain from driving to work or to stores.