Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Natural disaster

The tsunami that hit southern Asia has left a swath of destruction across the region. The numbers killed from the various countries hit by waves that some estimate were 10 stories tall, are growing by the hour.

The death toll is being estimated at over 27,000 for areas affected along the southern Asian coastline. According to The Times of India, hardest hit were Sri Lanka with more than 12,000 reported fatalities, and India, which is reporting 8,500 killed by the natural disaster. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports Indonesia was hit hard, with the latest official death toll at 4,422, but the number is certain to rise. Most of the victims are in the province of Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra, which has been the target of a huge military operation aimed at crushing separatist rebels and cowering the population. Media coverage in the province has been subject to severe restrictions and censorship for more than a year. Other affected areas were the low-lying Maldives and the Andaman Islands, coastal areas of Thailand, including the holiday resort island of Phuket, as well as Malaysia and Burma, which received poundings by the massive seas. The tsunami was felt as far away as east Africa—6,000 kilometres to the west—including Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. Nine people were killed in Somalia.

The tsunami, or tidal wave, was triggered by a massive earthquake that was measured at 8.9 on the Richter Scale by the National Earthquake Centre at the US Geological Survey. This quake was the largest since 1964 and the fifth largest measured since 1900.

The devastation is hard to fathom for us in America. We have had our earthquakes, flooding, as well as the death toll from 9-11, but nothing of the magnitude of the carnage being beamed into our homes from this region thousands of miles away. Reports of aid being sent are starting to materialize. Many ordinary Americans want to do something, as is often the case when we witness tragedy. Our government has pledged an initial $15 million, which I certainly hope will be increased.

I hope that many of the multinational corporations who have been the beneficiaries of the low-wage labor from many of these devastated countries might step forth and offer tangible aid and resources. One can argue the ethics of sweatshop labor day and night, but regardless of its rightness, now is a time for corporate capitalists to pony up and show the world whether they have any moral compass or not.

For individuals who want to help the victims, there are a couple of options that might be good places to start; the International Red Cross is always an immediate responder to disasters across the world. For those looking for a faith-based agency, the interfaith Church World Services has been a long-time responder to the needs of the world's citizens requiring help and resources in the midst of war or natural disasters.

If readers have other reputable aid agencies and organizations that provide direct relief in the form of medical supplies, clothing, food, as well as temporary shelter, I'd be happy to pass the information along in future posts.


Richard S. said...

As I mentioned last night at No More Big Wheels, there is an excellent list of tsunami relief addresses over at Enemy of the State:


When talking about corporate responsibility, keep in mind that some people are wondering whether the severity of this disaster might be due in part to global warming. Also, poor places often get hit the hardest because of weak infrastructures, sometimes because of negligence/cost cutting on the part of corporations. (This was proven to be a big factor in a fairly recent earthquake.)

Jim said...


Thanks for the link. I'm glad you posted a comment as I hadn't seen the new blog. Another place to visit on my forays across the web(s).

Whenever one of these disasters hit (and they seem to afflict the poorest more often than not), I always ask that age old question; "Where is god in all of this?"

I ask it, not so much for my benefit, but for the benefit of all those deluded fundamentalists who seem to think that there is this omnipotent force guiding our daily lives and American politics, such as the recent election of our holy potentate, Herr Bush.