Friday, December 31, 2004

World: Ineptness, Prevention and World Generousity

Let me start by an encouraging story before going into more gory ones.

This piece in Rediff report of a village Samiyar Pettai village in Cuddalore district which suffered comparatively less damage becuase the people there had had training for disaster management and recovery and were able to survive through the disaster. This shows the long term approach which should be taken to mitigate the losses because of natural disaster

The current toll of the disaster stands at 125,000 which is likely to rise mostly in Indonesia and Andaman and Nicobar islands. The extent of the disaster is mind-boggling, but what is even more surprising is the chain of events before tsunamis struck. My friend has been trying to unearthen the details before the tsunamis struck and they are shocking. Some of the tales go like this.

American staff contacted Thai people by sending an email for a disaster which was probably 1 hour away.

Thailand government senior members, do not know ministers or bueraucats, refused to issue an alert because it was the peak tourist season and it would hurt it. Just wondering what are they going to do now.

Indian base in Andaman contacted the previous science minister to tell about the disaster.

The US base at Diego Garcia was totally unaffected by the tsunami, though it should have been hit by it. Did they knew something which was not passed on to others or passed to wrong authorities or authorities did not take any steps.

An excerpt from report in IHT
On Sunday, Geoscience Australia issued an alert in Australia 33 minutes after the earthquake struck saying there was a risk of tsunami, McFadden said, but there was no one to receive the message in affected countries.

A letter to editor in NYT says
According to “At Warning Center, Alert for the Quake, None for a Tsunami” (front page, Dec. 28), “one of the few places in the Indian Ocean that got the message of the quake was Diego Garcia, a speck of an island with a United States Navy base.” Contacting “appropriate people in Sri Lanka or India was harder.”

Confirmed by this report in The Independent.

HUH? Call the Prime Minister/President/Home Minister/ or just inform the news agencies. They do not have any one who knows how to search the net for this info?

And another gaffe from Bush as if ones till now were not enough

After a day of repeated inquiries from reporters about his public absence, Bush late yesterday afternoon announced plans to hold a National Security Council meeting by teleconference to discuss several issues, including the tsunami, followed by a short public statement.

Bush’s deepened public involvement puts him more in line with other world figures. In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder cut short his vacation and returned to work in Berlin because of the Indian Ocean crisis, which began with a gigantic underwater earthquake. In Britain, the predominant U.S. voice speaking about the disaster was not Bush but former president Bill Clinton, who in an interview with the BBC said the suffering was like something in a “horror movie,” and urged a coordinated international response.

Earlier yesterday, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling. Explaining the about-face, a White House official said: “The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn’t want to make a symbolic statement about ‘We feel your pain.’ “

According to the Washington Post:

An international agency that monitors nuclear explosions around the world almost certainly picked up immediate signs of the underwater earthquake and tsunami in South East Asia on instruments it operates around the Indian Ocean, but it had no chance to alert governments in the region because its offices were closed for the holidays, according to a spokeswoman.
The information from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's network may yield insights into the catastrophe but would not have been critical in saving lives, because there is no functioning system capable of channeling early warnings to regions struck by the tsunami, said earthquake and tsunami experts. Still, the agency's failure to react during one of the most catastrophic seismic events in decades has proved embarrassing, officials said.
Daniela Rozgonova, spokeswoman for the Vienna-based agency, said raw data from its seismic and hydroacoustic monitoring stations in the region will be reviewed by analysts when they return from vacation on Tuesday.
She insisted that a team of about 100 analysts at the agency's International Data Center in Vienna would not have been able to get a warning to tsunami victims even if they had been at work. "The whole system has not been set up to warn for natural disasters," she said. "It's not set up for it."

In this truly global disaster the outpouring of help from all quarters has been phenomenal. I hope something like this goes forward to make this place a world rather than different nations.

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