Saturday, February 12, 2005

I told y'all a couple of days ago that the tunnel they were digging to extend Line 5, the blue line, from Horta through the Carmelo, collapsed. Nobody was hurt, but a thousand people were evacuated and are going to have to be rehoused, because they're going to have to tear down that entire block. It seems that the soil in that area is not particularly solid and there are a lot of fissures in it. It's such a big deal that Zap came to town to soothe everybody's nerves, promising checks of fifteen thousand euros. Maragall, the prime minister of the Generalitat, compared this mess to the sinking of the tanker Prestige a couple of years ago off Galicia, which resulted in an unpleasant though not disastrous oil slick.

I don't think the comparison is apt at all. What happened with the Prestige was that it was a foreign-owned ship in Spanish waters and it was going to sink. The Aznar government was on the spot; this was an emergency situation and they had to make a quick decision: should they tow the ship to port, which would certainly wreck whatever harbor they towed it into, or should they tow it back out to sea hoping that either the thing would hold together or that no significant damage would be done because the oil slicks could be stopped before they reached the shore?

They had no time to dither and they went with the second choice, towing it out to sea, which sort of worked because none of the national seashores nor the prime fisheries were affected, though an ugly mess was created that cost some time and effort to even partially clean up. The point remains, though, that criticizing the Aznar government over the Prestige affair is second-guessing, armchair-generalling, Monday-morning quarterbacking, looking back with 20/20 hindsight.

Meanwhile, this little mess should have been foreseen by the planners, who should have known what sort of soil they were tunneling through. Years before construction even began on that subway line extension, they should have known what kind of soil there was as part of the most basic planning. This is not a case of making a questionable decision in an emergency situation like the Prestige; this is a case of not doing your homework. It's negligence and somebody's head needs to roll.

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