Man Made Catastrophes – Texas explosion in hindsight


I have been travelling around Australia as part of the Zurich Zenith Forum and one of the issues that we have been discussing is whether flood is a man-made or a natural catastrophe.

My own view, as explained in previous postings is that flood plains are for floods and not for homes, factories and shops and that when developers and local authorities allow development in these areas it is a man made catastrophe waiting to happen.

It was the same with the horrifying fire and explosion in the town of West in the state of Texas, USA. First a high hazard fertilizer plant is built out in the middle of nowhere. Later, schools and nursing homes are allowed to be built very near the factory, not to mention homes and in fact an entire community.

Those in the town then seek to have the factory moved but as I understand it the farmers liked the convenience of the factory so close to their farms.

The rest is history. Thankfully, it was not a school day as the loss of life would have been much greater.

I am not saying we should not have factories, nor that we should not have development, but we need to use some basic risk management in the form of common sense when granting permission to build our communities. It will be private enterprise that will pay for the bulk of the financial losses in the form of massive insurance pay-outs. This of course is nothing compared to the human cost in the form of unnecessary loss of life and injury. Hopefully this local authority will learn from this tragic event and not mix high hazard industrial operations with residential living.

It just frustrates me that as communities we have to keep learning the same lesson over and over again the hard way. When it comes to flood, we do not seem to learn for in most Australian municipalities we simply allow the home and business owner to rebuild exactly what was there before and expect it not to happen again!

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