Dying in a gutter, the Yemeni style [Archives:2007/1051/Viewpoint]
No words can describe the tragedy. It is by far the height of heights in carelessness and deteriorating living conditions. Two days ago, earth beneath a taxi carrying a woman in a busy road located in one of the “modern” streets of Sana'a – Hadda Road – broke up pulling the car down into a ten meters deep gutter.
The driver made it through, the woman drowned in the sewage and the authorities are still bouncing the blame back and forth. Apparently it was an Iraqi women. She escaped death in Iraq, only to meet it face to face in a Yemeni gutter.
This is not the first or only incident of the like. October 2006 in Ibb, five people met their fate the same way, and in March the same year a man with a child drowned in gutter in Sana'a. That very month in Taiz four people died while digging a sewage den for their home, knowing little that they were actually digging their own grave.
The way things work at this part of the world, people randomly dig cavities in the ground and connect it through pipes from their home outlets. Once that shabby hole is filled with waste, it leaks out and erupts causing a terrible smell and semi liquid mess in the neighbourhood.
If authorities get wind of this, which is really a very easy thing considering the smell, they come to the location and demand the citizens to deal with the problem. Now there are three scenarios: one is that the citizens don't mind the problem, buy some dirt and burry the gutter and start digging another one. Obviously they would need to buy off the “very concerned” authorities with a few thousand riyals for Qat. The second scenario is that the people really want to do it right, so they ask the authorities to build them a modern sewage system. Then they have to fill an application, sign and stamp it by X, Y, and Z, and cough up thousands of Riyals. The government workers would then dig up the whole road, break the asphalt, stop the cars from coming and going for weeks, and worse the people would have to go somewhere else when they have to “go”. Eventually the neighbourhood would have their sewage system and a very messy street.
Then after a few of months, when the authorities remember that they need to fix the electricity connections, or the phone cables, or anything else underground, they would dig the whole thing all up again and work on it for several weeks.
Finally the third scenario is that the stuffed gutter would spill its contents into the surface, cause diseases and break the texture of the ground causing the death of an innocent child or an Iraqi woman in a cab minding her own business.
We are still waiting to see who will win in the finger pointing competition to identify the culprit behind this mess. As for me, I would advice you to try as much as possible to walk against the walls, for you can't be safe enough. But then again if a gutter could open, it is very likely that a wall would collapse on your head. Perhaps better to use one of inspector Gadget's flying hats and manoeuvre your way around the city from above. Well, what do you know? This way you can even avoid traffic too.