Flood in Tunisia: poor infrastructure and the role of social media

The last week of September witnessed a heavy rain in Tunisia that turned to be a fearful flood.  Tunisians who were eagerly waiting for rain after months of drought and scarcity of water resources became more terrified than welcoming the “unfriendly guest.” In fact, over the last months there have been calls to arrange prays asking God’s blessing in front of the threatening thirsty of  plants, animals and even human beings. In fact, the previous summer was very harsh for many regions in Tunisia where people were obliged to move far away to fetch water. It happened even in some urban areas. The minister of agriculture and water resources at the time claimed that if it doesn’t rain until September, it will be the catastrophe. At last it rained: fortunately or unfortunately?

What is striking about the last rain is that it covered nearly the whole regions of the country, something usual in autumn. What is unusual, however is that it overrode the common average of rain in this period of the year. Despite that the country witnessed devastating floods in its history like in 1967, 1990, 2003,… the last one was the most fearful. Some regions in the coast of Tunisia, the area supposed to be more privileged than many other interior cities at the level of infrastructures and civil services were completely isolated: houses were covered by water, cars were driven far away and many people were sunk due to the rise of the level of water and some others dead because of electric shocks. The traffic was completely chaotic and no one was able to organize it. Trains were stopped mainly for long destinations. These facts uncovered the poor infrastructure throughout Tunisia and the fact that some areas are more privileged than the others is not usually true. The outcome of last rain proved that infrastructure is getting old and needs to be modernized. What added to the misery of the situation is that post revolution Tunisia witnessed the overthrow of all municipal councils that take care of and improve the local infrastructure and make reports to the central authorities in relations to the lacks at the level of roads, bridges, drainage channels and the like. The temporary commissions that took place instead of them are week and lack power and authority as they are not elected from citizens and come in a difficult situation.

What is particular in the last rains is that social media played an important role in portraying the effect of this heavy rain and also in documenting the event as the traditional media cannot really cover all the damages happened. In fact, during the three days of heavy rain facebook chatters shared videos of people running over their cars driven by water and pictures of water coming through the electricity plug in some houses while others depicting people asking help. The picture that circulated too much between facebook members was a picture of a policeman regulating traffic flow in one of Tunisian cities with bare feet after losing his shoes due to the strength of water flaw. The man gained a wide of fame and his administration honored him the following day and the mayor of Sfax sent him boots as soon as he saw the picture on facebook. These pictures and videos shared on facebook put a lot of pressure on the newly appointed government and discomfited its staff that found itself obliged to visit the damaged area in a way to reassure people there and diminish their state of anger. People, however unwelcomed the governmental staff and received it with closing main roads and burning plastic tires in the city of Jammel. These reactions also were shown by social media while the traditional one restricted its focus on the prime minister and his team meeting people and talking with them neglecting all images of manifestations.

The heavy rain in Tunisia last week of September was devastating in some regions and revealed both the poor infrastructure and the failure of the government   to face such issues. Social media and facebook in particular, played an importing role in showing this condition and we hope that this type of media puts pressure on the

government more and more to rebuild what is already damaged.

Ramzi Rhimi

Related posts

Comments are closed.