Topic: In the News
My husband heard the early news on Boxing Day and told me there had been an earthquake under the sea resulting in a huge tsunami wave. On Monday we had a family reunion to celebrate my birthday so I only caught up with the news again at 10:40 pm that evening when the enormity of the tragedy began to sink in. They say the tsunami death toll may eventually be more than 100,000 as the casualty figure keeps rising, although many bodies will never be found. One third of these victims were young children - a lost generation. Of the survivors, an estimated 5 million people have been affected by this terrible disaster. Countless homes, hotels, villages and whole towns have been destroyed; twisted timbers and bits of masonry litter the landscape. The foreign tourists, who have survived traumatised and battered, many mourning lost family members, will come home to rebuild their lives. For the people left behind, the cost in human suffering is incalculable and the days to come could see another human catastrophe unfold as disease takes hold. Many people have no fresh water to drink as sewage outlets have broken and all water is contaminated. People on remote islands have no water, no food, no shelter, and desperately need medical supplies. The small but vital fishing industry is lost together with the fishermen's smashed up boats. The impact of this disaster will be felt for many years as these decimated communities struggle to rebuild themselves and some villages are probably gone forever. And for those whose economy was based on the tourist industry - now washed away - how will they survive? How long will it take to rebuild not just the resorts but the confidence of foreign visitors?
This dreadful catastrophe is one of the worst in recent times. There have been tsunamis before. In Alaska in April 1946, an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands triggered a Pacific-wide tsunami which killed a total of some 261 people and caused $52 million (much more in today's money) of damage. There was another tsunami in 1957 which caused less damage and no lives were lost. In 1960, there was one affecting Peru and Chile which caused widespread damage. In the 19th century, on 27 August 1883, Krakatau, an island volcano located on the island of Rakata along the Indonesian arc between Sumatra and Java, erupted with tremendous force sending dust 17 miles up into the atmosphere. Giant waves reached heights of 40 metres above sea level and devastated everything in their path. At least 36,417 lives were lost. The worst earthquake in living memory happened in Tangshan, China in 1976, when it was reported that 242,000 people died and over 600,000 were injured. However, in the decades since this earthquake, it is believed that the real figure was over half a million dead.
There are no volcanoes in England. We do not live in an earthquake zone where tectonic plates meet although we do have quite a few little earthquakes but hardly anyone notices - the worst measured 6.1 in 1931. There is an occasional severe gale and some miniature tornadoes have caused damage in some seaside towns but we never see the destructive hurricanes they suffer in the United States. Yes, of course we have had flood disasters and loss of life in recent memory and these will undoubtedly happen again. But we are lucky and privileged as a nation to live safe and comfortable lives.
These desperate human survivors in the devastated areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Somalia, Tanzania and Kenya (eleven nations in southeast Asia and Africa) need our help NOW. If every adult in the Western world gave something, even just £2 or $2 or €2 each, it would make a huge difference so please donate what you can afford to the disaster fund. It is easy. The telephone line for making donations from the UK is 0870 60 60 900 - you will be asked to enter your details via the telephone keypad.