Statistical Information on Flooding in Saudi Arabia

Statistical Information on Flooding in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has experienced flooding disaster for quite a while, which has claimed the lives of many and massive destruction of property. In the year 2009, flash flooding swept most regions of Saudi Arabia such as Jeddah City, which resulted into the death of 163 individuals, several hundred wounded, thousands of rescued individuals, and a lot of damaged property and economic assets (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 156). The amount of recorded rainfall amount during this period was the highest in the century in Saudi Arabia, reading at 150 mm of torrential rainfall that lasted for four hours only (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 156). The rainwater volume that poured down during the 2009 floods was approximately six to nine billion cubic meters, which is approximate of half of the overall annual consumption of water in Saudi Arabia (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 156). The 2009 flooding disaster is one of the natural disasters that have left Saudi Arabia in vulnerable conditions, and it took quite a while for the people to recover and get back to their normal ways of life.

Saudi Arabia experienced another flooding disaster in 2011, which led to the loss of lives and destruction of economic assets. In the year 2011, a torrential wave rain of 50 mm lasting for four hours left ten individuals dead, 114 people suffering injuries, destruction to thousands of buildings, and economic losses approximated at billions of dollars (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 156). In 2013, the city of Riyadh encountered a 32 mm heavy rainfall lasting for hours, which resulted into flash floods leading to loss of lives and devastation of several properties situated in risk-prone regions of the city (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 156). Later on, in November 2015, Jeddah again experienced a 22 mm torrential rainfall that led to the disruption of life in the city, closure of schools and institutions of higher learning, interruption of businesses, and people being asked to remain indoors (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 156). The occurrence of all these events, one after another, is an indication that Saudi Arabia is not much prepared in disaster management, civil defense, and response.

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Central Issues Flooding Disaster Management

Several issues make Saudi Arabia vulnerable to the flooding disaster. One of the issues originates from the organization of the authorities and parties in charge of disaster management in Saudi Arabia (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 156). In each of the 13 administrative locations in Saudi Arabia, the Local Civil Defense Department (LCDD) and the Local Emergency Committee (LEC) are responsible for the implementation of the various provisions and regulations of the civil defense system in case a disaster takes place (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 156). The LEC calls for meetings in case there is a need to handle a crisis occurrence (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2018, 2). Nonetheless, it is essential to note that such meetings do not take place regularly.

Another major issue dragging disaster management in Saudi Arabia finds roots to the role consigned to the civil defense department to deal with flash floods. Such task has the composition of various aspects, including a constitution of actions and measures crucial in protecting the public and private property from fire hazards, wars, and disaster attacks (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2018, 2). The role also includes assisting distressed individuals, by providing them with safe transportation and communication, and protecting national wealth in periods of peace, war, and emergency (Alqahtain, 2019, 161). From the roles assigned to the civil defense department, it is evident that flash floods in not on the top priority of the regime’s agenda, unlike the case of fire hazards.

Controlling and containing flash floods is an issue that has made the civil defense in Saudi Arabia to focus on structural structures to reduce and control runoff. The focus, in this case, is controlling instead of managing flash floods. With the current predictions by the World Meteorological Organization, there is a likelihood of an increase in the frequency and intensity of flash floods and flood-related occurrences due to climate change (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 157). In relation to this, there have been several proposals for the civil defense in Saudi Arabia to focus more on alternative integrated flash flood management approach (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 157). This approach is a modern management concept embracing pre-emptive aspects crucial in making life more sustainable even in regions vulnerable to floods.

Community participation is a different issue and challenges revolving around the management of flooding disaster in Saudi Arabia. Even though the LEC committee is a summation of diverse representatives from various city departments, it has no room for community representatives, which is a great blow to public participation (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 157). The government considers itself responsible for protecting the citizens and their property in Saudi Arabia. This creates little room for community participation. The government of Saudi Arabia has embraced a top-down approach, whereby the development of plans and decision-making is the role of the higher authorities (Sharif et al., 2016, 712). For the sake of Saudi Arabia, this kind of management is not suitable for distinct managerial operations whereby flexibility, swift coordination, quality attainment, and efficiency are vital in disaster management.

Challenges Associated with Flooding Disaster in Saudi Arabia

Mapping of cities is a challenge in Saudi Arabia. The civil defense officers indicate that they do not have the appropriate mapping and planning tools that could aid in the proper mapping of cities in Saudi Arabia (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 159). The officers indicated that they only have either printed maps or non-interactive ones, which is a core weakness in disaster management (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 159). Saudi Arabia also lacks a working Geographic Information System (GIS) installation. It is not easy for the civil defense offices in Saudi Arabia to achieve proper planning without mapping, more so without the utilization of spatial technology, including GIS (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 159). With the integration of local understanding, practices, and available data with digital spatial databases of the region prone to disasters, participatory GIS can produce much informative disaster maps, which can aid in the provision of a decision making tool in the management of flooding disasters.

Almost no city in Saudi Arabia except Mecca has updated maps based on flooding disaster. The General Directorate of Civil Defense (GDCD) has not embraced maps as crucial tools in decision-making (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 160). To come up with a local flash flood disaster map is not easy because of a lot of information associated with the range of likely damages that the disaster could cause making (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 160). Such mapping information is crucial in planning for the probable disaster scenario to reduce and manage the magnitude of the likely damages (Anees et al., 2020, 2). The absence of disaster maps in Saudi Arabia has also contributed to the lack of other related vital maps outlining the likely safe evacuation paths, secure temporary settlements, shelter infrastructures, location of vulnerable buildings, vulnerable individuals, the organizations responsible for service delivery, food depots, public security locations, health centres, and control unit locations.

Flooding disaster data is vital to any nation focused on handing and managing different disaster likely to attack its people. Collection, storage, and handling of disaster data are essential in preparing for future cases linked to flooding disasters (Armenakis et al., 2017, 123). The civil defense department in Saudi Arabia does not put much attention to flooding disaster data (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 160). The civil defense department has done little concerning the flooding disaster data gathering and monitoring, as well as collecting and noting hydrological data, amount of rainfall, and streamflow (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 160). Through keen scrutiny, the absence of data, disaster mapping, and GIS is because the civil defense department handles disasters from a response dimension, hence making it less concerned with the management aspect as a comprehensive element to embrace (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 160). Even though the civil defense department might focus on the response phase, it is not possible to manage it without proper valid data and maps.

Poor Urban Infrastructure and Planning

Poor infrastructure attracts the exacerbation of flooding disasters in most regions of the world. The absence and poor construction of storm sewer ducts lead makes flash floods to cause adverse implications to the environment (Armenakis, et al., 2017, 123). In Saudi Arabia, most flash flooding disasters have been associated with poor planning, poor implementation of structures, and lack of enough and financial resources (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 166). This problem seems to deteriorate because many projects do not operate within a single government unit. Every unit has its planning demands and execution standards, which makes coordination complicated and in some cases impossible.

Further, some of the initial tunnels such as those in Jeddah city, were set up following the topographic slope, from high regions to low regions, instead of being in the opposite direction to the natural slope to aid is slowing down the spend of flash water. This orthogonal plan layout with topographic terrain did not have a keen initial drawing, and many researcher blame its developers for the adverse complications and destructions emerging from flooding disasters (Ledraa & Al-Ghamdi, 2019, 160). With such a realization, the civil defense department and other related organizations in Saudi Arabia have attempted developing intensive efforts important in initializing and implementing distinct water drainage projects in almost every city in the country. Even though there are many issues facing the Saudi Arabia as far as flooding disaster is concerned, the government through the civil defense department is attempting to do all that it can to respond, control, and management flooding disaster.

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