Death toll rises to 52,000

What can one say about the tsunami that swallowed so many lives in Asia the morning after Christmas? The death toll seems to double every few hours. It’s as incomprehensible as September 11, with 20 times more bodies.

I spent my 2001 Chinese New Year holiday in Phuket and had one of the happiest weeks of my stay in Asia, snorkeling at Phi Phi Island and taking boat rides and lounging on the gorgeous beach. I look at the pictures now and can’t fathom it. Cars and boats piled on top of one another a mile away from the beach. Perhaps 1,000 tourists drowned.

This morning CNN showed video footage shot by an Australian tourist from his hotel rooftop at the exact moment the wave came. I’ve never seen anything like it, the water just pouring into the streets and carrying away anything and everything in its path.

We think we’re so safe, and we’re just ants, waiting to be squished. Just like 911, it puts things in perspective, and the tragedy makes us look at our own lives and conclude that maybe they’re not so bad after all….

The Discussion: 6 Comments

You may think you are safe .I do. Ants are intelligent, capable of looking after themselves; safe in there own way. Why involve them? 911 was premeditated murder.What you are talking about is a natural disaster. Isn’t your emotions getting away with your logic?

December 28, 2004 @ 2:14 pm | Comment

No emotion involved — we are all ants, at the mercy of events beyond our control at any time, be it an unpredictable tsunami or the footstep of an innocent child in the garden. The comparison with 911 is this: You never know when disaster may strike. Whether it’s manmade or natural is irrelevant, the point being that our lives can be extinguished at any given instant, a fact most of us fail to appreciate until a 911 or other disaster reminds us of our own mortality and frailty, and of the tenuousness of life.

December 28, 2004 @ 2:41 pm | Comment

For once, we agree 100% on something Richard.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

December 28, 2004 @ 7:23 pm | Comment

We respond differently, do you agree, to natural disasters because, at least at first, they are not politicized. Does anyone know why south Asia has the most catastrophic weather and natural disasters on the globe? Is there a meteorological or geological reason for this, besides the fact that the populations of these areas are the least equipped to survive floods, tsunami, typhoons & earthquakes?

We watch the footage of the tsunami with horror and disbelief, as the death toll rises. Can south Asia, even with the 2 billion China has promised in aid, economically survive this? Even after days, the prospects are staggering.

We grieve and silently, secretly thank the powers that be for our safety.

December 28, 2004 @ 10:09 pm | Comment

I agree with the 911 simile. Like Krakatoa, or 911, those who were about to end up casualties of this event had no inkling that it was coming. In a general war situation, you are aware of the danger even if you believe yourself to be in a safe zone, as many Tet 68 KIAs discovered. Thus any surprise is tactical. The same is true for developed countries during major storms, such as last years surprise in Florida. You know the storm is coming, but you miscalculate its strength or path. Even Mount St. Helens gave off warnings. This quake was a strategic surprise that gave no warning. It will be all the more traumatic for those who experienced it.

December 29, 2004 @ 12:24 am | Comment

Earthquakes never give warnings, that is true, but with the right systems in place, people can be warned of tsunamis. That’s what we have in the Pacific, that’s what was needed in the Indian Ocean.

But Richard, you are right in your assessment of our existence. These are risks I grew up with- I’ve been through more earthquakes than I can remember and I had a tsunami drill at my high school. I know I’m going to have to face this one day, face sitting here in Beijing wondering what has become of my family. My heart bleeds for these people. I read Prince Roy’s accounts of his small part in events and I want to weep. But I grew up with this and know all too well that there is nothing any of us can do to avoid or mitigate the risks, we can only be prepared.

If any good comes of this may it be that the governments of Indian Ocean states put in place systems to educate and warn their people’s of the risks and get them to safety. That is the only comfort any of us may ever have.

December 30, 2004 @ 7:00 am | Comment

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