January 01, 2005

It Could Have Been Worse -- Command Post

It Could Have Been Worse: " Cross-posted from AEBrain, the blog.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami could have been worse. A lot worse. That's a particularly cold-blooded thing to say about an event that's caused at least half a million casualties (injured and killed), with 70,000 confirmed dead at the moment. Nonetheless it's true. Just have a look at a graphic of the event.

Indian Ocean Tsunami
Click on graphic to show animation

As you can see from this simulation (Animation provided by Kenji Satake, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan, via ITSU), the Tsunami was focussed mainly to the West, with a slightly lesser wave to the East, and relatively little North and South. especially North.

Indian Ocean Tsunami Radii

Now please look North. The "crinkly bits‚" to the right of the Indian subcontinent represent the deltas of Bangladesh. Population 141 Million. Most of whom live within 2 metres of sea level.

The Maldives only had a population of 280,000, and they were badly hit, with some parts rendered permanently uninhabitable.

Bangladesh is at almost exactly the same distance from the epicentre as the Maldives, and are equally low-lying, 2/3 of the country being river delta within a metre or two of sea level. When the first reports came in, it wasn't clear how big the seismic event was. One source said 6.8, another 8.0, another 8.5. When I saw that last figure, I immediately thought about Bangladesh. Why?

From WorldInfo :

The 1970 cyclone killed over five hundred thousand people. In the 1991 cyclones over two hundred thousand people drowned and many millions of homes were destroyed. In 1991 a tsunami wave killed one hundred and thirty-eight thousand people in Bangladesh.
That was a small one, and there was plenty of time to see it coming - much smaller than the one that hit the Maldives with no warning.

I'd been thinking about Indian Ocean Tsunamis for a day or two, due to Friday the 13th and Jay Manifold's calculations about an Indian Ocean Impact.

So when the news came that the quake was 8.9 on the Richter Scale (soon to be upgraded to 9.0), I feared the worst. But as the hours ticked by, it soon became more likely that the reason there were no reports of devastation in Bangladesh was because there was no devastation, not because there was no Bangladesh.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for parts of Aceh province in Indonesia, whole towns and villages are on maps, but from aeriel reconnaisance, no longer exist. When I first started posting about the event over at The Command Post, I feared that the death toll would be in Millions, or even tens of Millions in Bangladesh, with another fifty or a hundred thousand everywhere else combined. Not just feared, I figured that if either the waves were unfocussed and omnidirectional, or focussed North-South, then at least a Million people had just died. I could see no way around it. It would have taken an extraordinary focussing of the energy East-West to keep the toll below that. But wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, such a focussing happened.

Never in my entire life have I been so glad to be wrong. So now when I see the heartrending pictures - a man cradling the lifeless body of his infant son; a mother with terrible wounds searching desperately for her children; or even think of the gay couple Carmel and I know well (they live not far from us) who were in Phuket and are still unnacounted for - I can't help thinking how much worse it could have been, by a factor of not just 10, but 100.

My favourite Marxist, Norman Geras, discusses with sympathy those whose faith in an Omnibenevolent God has been shaken by this event. Well, there are 10 Million reasons why my agnosticism, and unbelief in a God who participates in human affairs has been shaken. There aren't 10 Million corpses, mainly children, in the Bay of Bengal today. As I write this, I still can't believe that we dodged this particular bullet. When I first posted the alert over at TCP, I had an icy pit in my stomach. Now I'm quite literally shedding a few tears of relief as I type this.

Oh yes, after a steady increase to a chance as high as 1 in 32, it looks like 2004 MN 04 won't be hitting us after all.

It could have been worse. "

On Command Post Op-Ed Page

January 1, 2005 in World View | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World News

Pope's prayer for tsunami victims: "The Pope prays for victims of the Asian wave disaster at his annual New Year address in Rome."
On BBC: World

South Africa begins gun amnesty: "South Africa begins a nationwide amnesty for gun owners in an attempt to cut high crime levels."
On BBC: World

Bush Orders Flag Tribute to Tsunami Victims: "CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President Bush, seeking to bolster America's humanitarian image after the Asian tsunamis, called on Saturday for flags to be flown at half-staff next week to honor victims of the disaster."
On Reuters: Top News

White Roses, Candles Bring in Solemn New Year: "PATONG BEACH, Thailand (Reuters) - People held candles and white roses on the tsunami-hit island of Phuket, tearfully embracing as they grieved, in a poignant symbol of the mood which darkened New Year celebrations across the globe."
On Reuters: Top News

Iraq Ushers in New Year with Deadly Attacks: "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq ushered in the New Year on Saturday the same way it ended the last one -- with a string of assassinations and bombings by insurgents bent on wrecking a landmark Jan. 30 election."
On Reuters: Top News

Mideast Looks Forward to 2005 Elections: "Middle East Nations Such As Iraq and Egypt Will Head to the Polls in 2005"
On ABC News: World

Floods in Sri Lanka Prompt Evacuations: "After the devastation wreaked by the seas, a deluge from the skies deepened the misery for tsunami-stricken areas Saturday, triggering flash floods in Sri Lanka that sent evacuees fleeing and increasing the threat of deadly disease as survivors shivered in relief centers."
On AP World News

The end of Uganda's mystic rebel?: "A cease-fire between northern fighters and the government is expected to be signed Friday."
On Christian Science Monitor: All Stories

36 Children Injured in Sled Accident On Foxnews: U.S. & World

Saudi's 58 Marriages Anger Some On Foxnews: U.S. & World

Justice Dept. Toughens Rule on Torture: "The Justice Department has broadened its definition of torture, retreating from an earlier memo that defined torture extremely narrowly."
On New York Times: International News

Cruel and Unusual Kittycat: "A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers."
On Slate Magazine

Killings In D.C. Fewest Since '86: "The District had fewer than 200 homicides last year for the first time in nearly two decades, a steep drop from the deadly bloodshed that was fueled by drugs and gangs in the 1980s and 1990s."
On Washington Post: Top News

A boy named Tsunami (Reuters): "Reuters - Six-day-old Tsunami Roy doesn't know what all the fuss about him is, as he hungrily suckles at his mother's breast before dropping off for a contented nap."
On Yahoo! News: Highest Rated

Tsunami aid tops $2 billion: "Pledges of international financial support for countries devastated by the Indian Ocean tsanumis have reached $2 billion, according to the U.N. emergency relief coordinator."
On CNN: World

January 1, 2005 in World View | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 31, 2004

Wraparound, 12/31/2004

U.S. Pledges $350 Million in Tsunami Aid-Official: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will provide $350 million in aid for victims of southern Asia's devastating tsunami, a government official said on Friday."
On Reuters: Top News

Devastating Asian Tsunami Darkens World's New Year: "BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters) - Aircraft, naval vessels and trucks struggled Friday to deliver aid around stricken southern Asia as the death toll exceeded 124,000 from a tsunami which darkened the world's New Year."
On Reuters: Top News

Musharraf solidifies powerful post: "The decision by Pakistan's president to stay on as military chief has angered leading politicians of the religious right."
On Christian Science Monitor: All Stories

The end of Uganda's mystic rebel?: "A cease-fire between northern fighters and the government is expected to be signed Friday."
On Christian Science Monitor: All Stories

Iraq Militant Roundup: "GIs take in 49 suspects; insurgents threaten potential voters with death
• Security Teams Train
On Foxnews: U.S. & World

£20m in 24 hours: "Shocked by the devastation caused by the tsunami, Britons responded yesterday with unprecedented generosity to the appeal for donations"
On Independent: World

Desmond Tutu on God, Bush and the Tsunamis: "Desmond Tutu discusses the tsunami tragedy, God, Iraq and the re-election of George W. Bush"
On Newsweek: World News

The End of My World as I Knew It: "A New Year's reflection on my life after heroin."
On Slate Magazine

College Football Art: A Slide Show: "The master painters of the gridiron and the fans who love them."

On Slate Magazine

Agony in Aceh: "A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers."
On Slate Magazine

What Was Lost: "South Asia is inundated, leaving behind scenes of unimaginable destruction as the survivors look for missing kin and relief workers try to head off a humanitarian catastrophe"
On TIME's Top Stories

An Easier, but Less Deadly, Recipe for Terror: "If you can get past the guards and fences, the ingredients for a chemical attack are available off the shelf at a crumbling military base called Shchuchye in south-central Russia. There, stacked like dusty wine bottles on wooden racks, is a collection of 1.9 million artillery shells filled with nerve agents such as VX, an oily yellow liquid so deadly that a single drop on the skin can kill."
On Washington Post: Top News

Mother's dilemma: Which son to save!: "Tsunami that hit Phuket forced Jillian Searle of Australia to make a choice no mother should ever have to make. "
On Hindustan Times: World

U.S. Aid Generous and Stingy: "It depends on how the numbers are crunched -- total dollars or a slice of the overall economy."

On LA Times: World

The Sea: "This week, tsunamis caused by underwater earthquakes in the Indian Ocean claimed tens of thousands of lives. In this article from 1951, Rachel L. Carson considers the science of waves, and the relationship between the earth and the sea."
On The New Yorker

Raw Deal: "Pure, on Irving Place."
On The New Yorker

Pacific coast'stsunami threat : "Great earthquake cluster zone in northwestcould touch off deadly waves, say studies"
On WorldNetDaily

Report: Stewart Loses Contest in Prison (AP): "AP - Martha Stewart, who built a billion-dollar media empire based on her holiday and home decorating tips, was unable to lead her team to victory in a prison decoration contest, a magazine reported."
On Yahoo! News: Most Emailed

Girl, 5, youngest Briton known dead: "A five-year-old schoolgirl has been confirmed as the youngest Briton known to have died in the Asian tsunami disaster."
On Ananova News

Terror groups call voting un-Islamic: "New Year's Eve festivities canceled"
On The Washington Times: World

Ex-Playmate Anna Nicole's Fortune Reversed (AP): "AP - A federal appeals court Thursday threw out a judge's ruling that awarded $88.5 million to former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith from the estate of her late husband, an oil tycoon who died at age 90 just over a year after they wed."
On Yahoo! News: Most Viewed

December 31, 2004 in World View | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack