Wednesday: 05.January.2005

The Tsunami

The tsunami. I'm getting letters, from all over the world, asking why I haven't mentioned the biggest natural disaster in our lifetime. For days now, I've been meaning to say something, trying to find the right words, but honestly don't know what to say in the face of such devastation. And regular readers know I'm rarely speechless.

I usually start my day by checking Google News. Back when the death toll was at 20,000, I thought it must be a type-o. I mean, I could see 200 deaths. Maybe even 2,000. But 20,000 couldn't possibly be right. Yet it was .. and that was just the beginning. What I'm saying is that I'm having trouble comprehending the magnitude of this thing.

So I apologize if I seem callous. I can see how one might get that impression. I'm trying to grapple with the impact of this disaster. Maybe this is why I've tried to post content that is uplifting and light-hearted the last few days.


I lived in Hawaii for a couple of years, back when I was in the Navy (stationed on a nuke sub home-ported at Pearl Harbor). So I'm familiar with the term tsunami [from the Japanese tsu (harbor) nami (wave)]. The name itself sounds rather ominous.

I've stood on the North shore (of Oahu, at Waimea), with hundreds of others, while storms raged at sea, and watched the 30-footers come rolling in .. one after the other .. for hours .. so loud you couldn't hear the person standing next to you .. unless he shouted in your ear. So I'm also familiar with the power of the ocean.

Nevertheless, I feel woefully inadequate to express my sympathies. They seem so insignificant in relation to such devastation. And things just seem to be getting worse. But I think about it a lot. And those of us who live near the coast, especially those of us who live in California, realize it could've just as easily been us.

Those who reside in affected countries should know the entire world has been moved by this tragedy .. in a big way. If the rest of the world feels anything like I do, I suspect they are also somewhat overwhelmed the magnitude of this thing, and trying to grapple with how to understand it.

Can't mention the tsunami without asking, where was God during all this? If there's anything that falls under his jurisdiction, it would be natural phenomena. I mean, he supposedly designed and created the whole thing.

Everybody I know has contributed as they are able. We are sending letters to our senators and congressmen asking they do more. I only wish I could do more myself. (I feel inadequate to help in a way that will be meaningful.) We have Colin Powell on the job, and he is one of the most competent people in Washington. Those who likewise feel compelled are encouraged to HELP. Our prayers are with you and help is on the way. Hang in there.

A map of the earthquake's source and the surrounding countries affected is posted here. The BBC has posted a simplified animated guide. Here is a Flash animation. The videos are simply incredible (need Bittorent). The most comprehensive explanation of what happened can be found at Wikipedia (source here). See here for a timeline of events. Here's a Google search for the term: tsunami.

Posted by Rad at January 5, 2005 12:27 AM


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About time.

Posted by: Tito at January 5, 2005 09:17 AM

Great videos. Hard to imagine the 150,000 people dying. That is 50 times the World Trade Center deaths.

Posted by: RJ at January 5, 2005 09:23 AM

At a time when millions of people in south Asia are struggling for their lives after one of the worst natural disasters in history, and with the tsunami death toll rising past 150,000 (many of them children) the opulence and wastefulness of a $40 million presidential inauguration comes into sharp focus.

A presidential inauguration could cost virtually nothing: You walk up the steps of the Supreme Court, enter a private office, raise your hand and take an oath.

Done. The essential work for America would have been completed. The president would assume his constitutional powers, and the country would move forward. A $40 million party is simply not necessary.

Posted by: Daily Herald at January 5, 2005 09:33 PM

And this brings us to an important point about leadership. President Bush was strangely silent until three days after the tsunami struck, and the first U.S. offer of aid was a paltry $15 million -- less than half the cost of the president's self-congratulatory political festival. While it's true that most of the inauguration's cost is being borne by private donors, something just feels wrong about it when so many human beings so desperately need help on the other side of the world. It makes America seem cold and insensitive as its political elite lavish themselves with luxury.

As for the tsunami victims, let them eat mud.

Posted by: Harold Daily at January 5, 2005 09:35 PM

Many forget that back in 1976 the Tangshan quake in China killed 255,000 people, making it more deadly that the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Posted by: Tangshan at January 6, 2005 10:38 AM

Being the wealthiest nation in the world, it is surprising that the United States government is contributing far less than many less fortunate nations, such as Astralia, Germany and Japan.

Posted by: Ed at January 6, 2005 10:40 AM

The United States can't afford to help people in real need because they are so far in debt from spending so much money on bombs to drop on innocent people in Iraq. If they would divert even a small percent of their mammoth military budget to helping people who really need help, how much of a difference would that make in our world?

Posted by: Sal at January 6, 2005 01:01 PM

I picked up the "special report" issue of Time magazine today, titled "Tsuname". Selected text:

Sometime after 7:30 on the morning of Dec. 26, he says he was on boat just off the coast when he felt the sea moving. "That must have been when the earthquake hit," he says. About half an hour later came the shock wave--the tsunami--that devastated the region. At first, Bustami, saw water retreat from shore, with fish jumping on the empty beach.

"Then," he says, "I heard this strange thunderous sound from somewhere, a sound I'd never heard before. I thought it was the sound of bombs."

The water rose behind him as high as the coconut trees on the shoreline, and he was thrown off his boat. "It felt like doomsday," he said.

After clinging to a palm tree, he was eventually picked up by a soldier three hours later almost 2 miles from where he had lost his boat.

Posted by: Pedro at January 7, 2005 11:28 AM