The Face Of Disaster

KIEV, Ukraine -- There wasn’t much the government could say following last week’s chemical spill in Lviv Region, but they could have found a better spokesman to say it.

The world learned quickly that a train had derailed, causing a fire and then a cloud of noxious gas that covered over 50 square miles of countryside.

As the specter of Chornobyl, Ukraine’s claim to infamy, slowly resurfaced in the public consciousness, a sober and intelligent statement by Ukraine’s authorities would have been nice.

Instead, we got an earful of past incompetence from an official who should have stayed in the past.

Even if someone out there in television land was willing to give the Ukrainian authorities the benefit of the doubt regarding the latter’s ability to handle the situation, the delusion was soon dispatched by Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk.

“A disaster has happened. After the Chornobyl catastrophe we are confronted with a situation that can pose a real threat to our people,” Kuzmuk said from the scene.

As it turns out, the comparison between the Lviv spill, which has yet to claim any casualties, and Chornobyl, the world’s worst nuclear accident, was a huge exaggeration.

The comment spurred panic and did little to instill confidence in thousands who fled their homes in the vicinity of the spill.

As if to compensate, Kuzmuk returned to TV screens the next day to tell people in the disaster zone that they could “breathe easily” and feel free to drink from their wells and graze their livestock.

Having served as defense minister during some of the country’s worst military disasters, such as the leveling of a block of flats with a stray missile and the shoot-down of a Russian passenger liner over the Black Sea, Kuzmuk was a poor choice to break the news.

But he has returned from the scrap heap of discredited officials twice already.

If Ukraine wants to convince its citizens and others that it isn’t a disaster zone, then a good first step would be to at least find a better spokesman during catastrophes.

Source: Kyiv Post