Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tsunami Of A Bitch

Everything I write about on this Blog is stuff that interests me. Mostly, I just use this thing as a source for my own amusement, and a historical record of oddities and news events. The tsunami that roared through the Indian Ocean yesterday and the earthquake that brought it on, would be such events.

I subscribe to SLATE as one of my news sources. They do a great job of condensing the important information from news sources around the globe into a quick-read format (and they can be funny, too). Here's what they had to say about the tsunami...

Everyone leads with news about the massive tsunamis that hit Asia on Sunday, killing more than 21,000 people. Walls of water originating near the Indonesian island of Sumatra hurtled toward land at the speed of jet aircraft, sending waves as tall as 20 feet crashing into Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Somalia. Boats were dragged onto the beach, and cars were carried out to sea. Entire villages were wiped out, and people were swept into the ocean. Hundreds of thousands lost their homes, and the death toll is expected to keep rising.

The Los Angeles Times online initially used the term "tidal waves" (as did TP), but as the Wall Street Journal explains in a tsunami Q&A, these waves weren't caused by tides. Rather, Sunday's tsunami was spawned when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, the worst in 40 years, ruptured the sea floor deep below the Indian Ocean. An Italian scientist says the earthquake was so powerful that it disturbed the Earth's rotation. The LAT catches late word that the earthquake moved the entire island of Sumatra 100 feet to the southwest.

USA Today has coverage out of Jakarta, the LAT out of Madras, and the New York Times out of Madras and Dehiwala, Sri Lanka. The WSJ runs short reports from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The Washington Post issues its main story out of Jakarta and also fronts a first-person account, datelined Sri Lanka, from staff writer Michael Dobbs, who was swimming in the ocean when the tsunami hit and likened the experience to "a scene from the Bible."

As the WP points out in a separate article, the tragedy could have been attenuated by early-warning systems like the ones that exist for the Pacific Ocean. After the earthquake, it took the tsunami an hour to get to Thailand and 2.5 hours to get to India and Sri Lanka. American officials wanted to warn the countries but had no way of doing so. Moving people a mere three hundred yards inland could have saved thousands of lives.

The papers all list places to donate

FYI: According to the Congressional Research Service, an independent agency, the United States is the largest aid donor in terms of dollars, but its record of donating two-tenths of 1 percent of its national economy for foreign aid makes it among the smallest donors as a proportion of what it could theoretically afford. - New York Times 12/29- "Irate Over 'Stingy' Remark, U.S. Adds $20 Million to Disaster Aid"


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