Cabinet in open session- Minister quits; One Kuwaiti man dies in flash floods

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A road under a bridge completely submerged by flood waters resulting from torrential rains which hit the country Friday night causing a lot of havoc including the death of a Kuwaiti citizen

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 10: His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah chaired an extraordinary session of the Cabinet at the Interior Ministry headquarters on Saturday to follow up on the repercussions of the downpour witnessed throughout the country.

A special ministers’ session was held to follow up on results of the torrential rain and closely examine the contingency plans for coping with the conditions throughout the country for safeguarding peoples and properties, announced the Deputy Premier and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh.

At the onset of the session, His Highness the Prime Minister greeted the First Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Sabah, on his safe return following his recuperation abroad.

The ministers examined detailed reports on preparedness to cope with the extraordinary situation. His Highness the Premier stressed during the session on necessity of following up on the preparations to deal with all prospects, in light of the persisting bad weather.

He has affirmed that any flaws or cases of complacency and slackness will be pin-pointed, emphasizing that officials, responsible for the irregularities or who have failed to fulfil their duties properly, will be named and shamed. Instant interrogations of the slack officials will be held, he warned.

Minister Al-Saleh also announced that the Cabinet session will be an open one – to proceed till end of the extraordinary situation.

Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Municipal Affairs Hussam Al-Roumi resigned on Friday following damages caused to properties of citizens and expatriates as a result of unprecedented heavy rainfall in Kuwait recently.

Al-Roumi, in his resignation, expressed “deep regret” for the damage of properties as a result of the heavy rainfall. “I have submitted my resignation to His Highness the Prime Minister bearing my moral responsibility and in line with His Highness the Prime Minister’s accountability approach,” Al-Roumi said in a statement.

Al-Roumi expressed apologies for citizens and expatriates for the damage they incurred, and voiced gratitude for His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, his Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister for their support.

He said he had exerted every effort to preserve public funds and fighting corruption as well as improving work in the ministries he held. Al-Roumi thanked all officials in the government departments to dealing with this unprecedented rain fall.

His Highness the Prime Minister said earlier the government was following up closely the situation across the country amid the unstable weather conditions and heavy rains.

There are direct instructions to all ministries to take necessary measures to maintain safety of citizens and their properties, His Highness the Prime Minister said. Officials failing to fulfill their duties well, will be held accountable, he vowed.

In conference call with the concerned ministers, His Highness the Premier affirmed the necessity of making sure that all government bodies are ready to deal with the current weather conditions.

Kuwait has been witnessing an unstable weather associated with scattered thunderous rains expected to run until Sunday morning. In light of the flooding which led to the resignation of Minister of Public Works and State Minister for Municipality, Parliament Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim disclosed the legislative and executive authorities will hold an emergency meeting at the National Assembly on Sunday.

The Speaker explained that this is in response to the request of several MPs to discuss the recent flooding which caused more damages to properties. He revealed the two authorities will look into the government’s plan to deal with such damages. Speaking to reporters when he visited Mangaf Bridge which was flooded due to the recent rainfall, Al-Ghanim pointed out the most important step now is to cooperate with security officers and all concerned authorities in dealing with flash floods and heavy rains.

He asserted the protection of lives is on top of everything else as possessions can be replaced, calling on the public to unite as the country is currently facing difficulties. He added the payment of compensation and holding those in charge responsible for their shortcomings will be done later. Asked why the governmental-parliamentary meeting was not held before Sunday, the Speaker explained all the concerned officials were busy dealing with the aftermath of the flood and preparing for possible recurrence.

On the other hand, the Public Utilities Committee will also meet on Sunday to “initiate a new stage of tangible reforms,” says Committee Chaiman MP Mohammed Al-Hadiya. In a press statement, the MP revealed the committee will delve into the technical aspects of the country’s infrastructure to identify loopholes and find solutions, considering there are neither guidelines nor policies on preventing such crisis.

MPs are demanding compensation for those who suffered material losses during the heavy rains, stressing such a step cannot be avoided or neglected for the losses are the results of governmental negligence in building good infrastructure.

Furthermore, MP Abdulkareem Al- Kandari submitted a bill on the formation of a judicial committee which will handle, evaluate and execute compensation claims submitted by those who suffered from the floods and any other natural disasters that might occur in the future.

Article One of the bill stipulates that the committee will be called ‘Compensation for Victims of Natural Disasters’ which will be under the Ministry of Justice

Article Two states that without prejudice to the right of victims to resort to the judiciary, the committee will be in charge of assessing damages, losses and compensation for individuals, companies or institutions that are victims of natural disasters.

Article Three stipulates that natural disasters are considered the aftermath of any weather conditions, natural factors or human errors such as earthquakes, floods, wind and dust storms, landslides, radiation pollution, environmental pollution and terrorist/military attack.

Flash floods after heavy rains in Kuwait killed one man Saturday and damaged roads, bridges and homes, officials said, as several oil firms and ministries announced a state of emergency. The health ministry said the man, aged 30, was swept away by the flooding as he tried to rescue his family from their home which was submerged in water.

An unspecified number of people were also reported injured in traffic accidents caused by the rains. Several vehicles in many areas of the desert Kingdom were washed away by the floods, particularly in newly-build residential areas, AFP journalists said.

The Kuwaiti army and the national guard launched search operations as authorities set aside several locations to receive residents threatened by flooding. The ministries of oil and electricity as well as several oil companies announced a state of emergency, and the government held an urgent Cabinet session on Saturday morning.

The state news agency KUNA, quoting the ministry of education, said that private and public schools would be closed on Sunday. Bad weather accompanied by torrential rains and flash flooding has hit several countries in the region, including Jordan where 12 people have been killed and nearly 4,000 tourists forced to flee the famed ancient desert city of Petra.



By Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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