Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Moore Oklahoma school deaths could have been avoided with proper safety measures

Moore Oklahoma: calm and comfort after the storm

by Richard Mellor

The death toll in Moore, Oklahoma after a tornado battered the town for 45 minutes stands at 24, ten of them children, more than 240 have been injured according to reports in the media. Seven of the children were killed when the tornado tore through the Plaza Towers School destroying it completely.  According to the National Weather Service, the tornado had winds of 200 miles an hour, was about 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide.

As we always remind people when the big business press talks about money shortages for this or that social investment, it is important to reject that argument as there’s lots of money, it’s simply a question of allocation.

So once again, the deaths in this instance are largely market induced, they were far from inevitable.  Some building and homes have underground shelters or “safe rooms”, rooms built of reinforced concrete in which residents can take cover when these storms hit. These safe rooms cost a few thousand dollars apparently.

Many schools have them as well.  The Plaza Towers School didn’t have an underground shelter and Oklahoma state law doesn’t require schools to have above ground shelters despite this area being a tornado prone area.  There are about 100 schools in the state do have safe rooms built with federal funds.  But that money “has dried up” the Wall Street Journal reports and many of the schools are now on a waiting list.  Plaza Towers won’t have to wait, as it no longer exists.

"The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground there for them, beside them as long as it takes for their homes and schools to rebuild,", president Obama said today.  But this is typical after the fact.  The same with the West, Texas explosion, workers killed by the explosion on the deep water rig in the Gulf of Mexico and other disasters that inflict more damage and destruction than they should due to the attacks on public spending and the way capital is allocated in society and the priorities as determined by the politicians int he two Wall Street parties.  As I wrote before, OSHA shows up after workers die.

Glenn Lewis, Moore’s mayor said he would propose an ordinance requiring a reinforced shelter to be built in every new home which will also save lives in the future and assumes the bill will pass easily.  But we need to instill firmly in our minds the understanding that certainly the human deaths and most likely structural destruction in these disasters are greatly increased by the priorities of capital.  We do not control the allocation of capital in society otherwise we wouldn’t be spending a few trillion dollars on foreign wars and other expenditures aimed at protecting the rights and bank accounts of the 1%.

There are many instances where measures taken that would improve the quality of our lives, communities and our safety, regulations and government oversight for example, are squelched by politicians in the pay of lobbyists representing the 1%. Mustn’t cut in to profit taking.

A simple thing like a safe room would have saved the lives of six Oklahoma children at least.  But the money’s “dried up" it's called Austerity.

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