Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have hit the U.S. in the last few days. 71 people have already lost their lives to Hurricane Harvey alone, and the material damage is over 70 billion dollars. Hurricane Irma has caused a loss of 65 billion dollars in the Caribbean and 50 billion dollars in the U.S.
The hurricanes have also brought with them a series of scandals in the U.S. The steps taken by churches, corporations, and the government have been controversial, as people who have lost everything due to the hurricanes have been trying to struggle against the massive effects of the disasters on their own.
MEGACHURCH CLOSED ITS DOORS
The city of Houston in Texas has suffered heavy damage due to Hurricane Harvey. A state of emergency was declared, and masses of people who lost their homes to the hurricane have been struggling to find shelter.
In the meantime, a megachurch belonging to the millionaire cleric Joel Osteen in the Lakewood region closed its doors to homeless people after the hurricane.
The church, with a seating capacity of 16,800, refused to grant people shelter. Osteen had previously claimed that people could acquire the "blessing of God" by donating to his church and has attracted serious controversy on social media.
After facing heavy criticism on social media, the millionaire cleric Osteen declared that the church would open its door to those seeking refuge. This announcement came as the state of emergency was about to end.
WORKERS TRYING TO ESCAPE THE HURRICANE WERE THREATENED
As Hurricane Irma hit Florida, corporations once again revealed that they only care about their income.
A director at a Pizza Hut dealer threatened to punish workers who tried to escape from the hurricane. The company gave a time limit to workers fleeing from the hurricane, and announced that the wages of workers exceeding this limit would be cut.
Moreover, the workers were asked to start working again within 72 hours.
1 MILLION DOLLARS FROM THE U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
Donald Trump, who spent 66 million dollars to be elected as the U.S. President and whose personal fortune is estimated to be more than 3.5 million dollars, declared that he would donate 1 million dollars to help those affected by the hurricane.
While the small amount of money that Trump promised to give has been getting some positive reactions, Trump is yet to reveal where this donation would go to.
The money donated by Donald Trump has been transferred to 12 different institutions, among which there are also religious organisations. 100,000 dollars of the 1 million dollars were given to an institution named the Samaritan’s Purse, ran by Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham. Frank Graham is known as someone who gave Trump significant support during the U.S. elections.
Among the institutions that received financial assistance from Donald Trump were also a series of Catholic associations.
HOMEOWNERS STILL ASK FOR RENTAL FEES
Floods caused by the hurricanes have rendered many houses in the U.S. uninhabitable. While many people have lost everything due to the hurricane, it was the poor that suffered the heaviest in the aftermath of the disasters.
Despite this, homeowners have still been demanding rental fees from people rendered homeless from the hurricane, drawing controversy.
Those who have been forced to stay in houses damaged by the floods and hurricanes have reported that homeowners have largely been inconsiderate and rude.
STATE INTERVENTION IS INSUFFICIENT
Hurricane Harvey revealed the U.S. administration’s inability of efficient crisis management. State resources were not used to aid hurricane victims, many of who had to save themselves in the face of massive floods and hurricanes.
"Houston was a catastrophe waiting to happen, considering the unrestrained capitalism, lack of zoning, laissez-faire regulations, and lack of controls on the industries that have caused a multitude of issues with greenhouse gases and other industrial pollution," said Robert Bullard, a distinguished professor at Texas Southern University, speaking to Democracy Now. Bullard is known as the "Father of Environmental Justice."
"The impact of all of this has been ignored for many years. So the fact is, this is a disaster, but a very predictable disaster," he added.
The small budget allocated to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has also sparked debate. Most of the hurricane victims’ basic needs could not be met by the government, as the budget allocated to FEMA was almost totally spent before Hurricane Harvey ended.
While the U.S. administration did not take any necessary steps in the early days of the hurricane, Donald Trump approved an aid package of $15.3 million after reactions to the government’s handling of the disaster. Yet, the hurricane had already caused heavy damage and loss by the time the aid package was approved.
SOCIALIST CUBA AND THE HURRICANE
The late and insufficient intervention of the U.S. administration to the disaster must be compared to socialist Cuba’s response to the hurricane. Taking preventative measures against natural disasters, Cuba has survived the storm with only minor damages despite its limited resources, in stark contrast to the United States.
"Even a taxi driver can tell you what a category 5 hurricane is, what the Saffir-Simpson scale means, and will give you a whole lecture on what needs to be done to prepare," said Gail Reed, speaking of how the Cuban people are ready for the hurricane. Gail Reed is the executive editor of the Medicc Review, a peer-reviewed journal about health and medicine in Latin America, the Caribbean, and other developing countries.
In Cuba, the socialist government and the people took extensive measures to prepare for the hurricane, establishing people’s organisations such as medical brigades and electrical units.
The well-organised society of Cuba has once again taught the world a lesson about humanity by sending hundreds of doctors to affected areas, while at the same time carrying out a successful struggle against the destructiveness of the hurricane.