I find it sad that my first blog has to be about a natural calamity that has claimed thousands of lives in south east Asia and east Africa but I could not hold myself back from writing about this terrible disaster. Early Sunday morning [~2 am PST] I was engrossed in a lively game of Chess when I decided to check on the happenings from my motherland, India, as I waited for my partner to move. What I saw shocked me, as news had started trickling in of the disastrous event that had taken place half the world away in south east Asia and even as early as then ~10,000 had been feared dead, numbers have grown 10 times since then in a picture that becomes bleaker day by day with fear of epidemic looming large which could double the number of dead. I have since then followed the happenings very closely and am writing the account below based on this.
On a quiet, peaceful Sunday morning in the tranquil waters of the Indian ocean off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia - the stage was being set for one of the deadliest earthquakes of the past century which would even change the face of the Earth. The earthquake which occured 6 miles beneath the surface of the sea and was caused by the movements of tectonic plates resulted in a Tsunami [tidal wave] that travelled thousands of miles and ravaged everything in it's path. Tsunamis are common in the Pacific ocean and Japan has historically borne the brunt of such occurence in the troubled waters surrounded by the "Ring of Fire". These waves travel from deep within the ocean at speeds of 600 miles / hour, as they get closer to the land the speed reduces to ~ 45 miles / hr and a wall of water is formed, which was as high as 6m in this case, and crashes the ocean shores. The people inhabiting the coastal areas where the Tsunami struck were taken completely off guard as there are no warning centers set up to track such events. The epicenter for the quake, which measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, was closest to the city of Bande Aceh, on the northern coast of Sumatra. Within a few hours the menacing waters had travelled as far as India, Sri Lanka and Thailand and were causing uncontrollable havoc. In time the tidal waves leveled villages in east Africa 3000 miles away from the origin. The death toll keeps mounting and is close to a 100,000 right now, within three days of the event. The tsunami has affected 11 countries - Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Maldives, Somalia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Tanzania, Seychelles, Bangladesh and Kenya. The scenes of mass graves are horrific as human bodies are tossed into a huge pit by giant sized cranes, and people faint by the stench of rotting bodies around them. The devastation to property is in hundreds of millions but cannot be compared to the lost human lives. The pictures of devastation were unthinkable as trains were tossed around like a small toy, houses were brought to rubble and buses overturned by the fiery water. Accounts from survivors were heart rending as people talked of losing everything they had in this terrible tragedy. Thousands of children have been left orphaned and millions left homeless in the aftemath. My eyes swelled up with tears as I heard the account of a distraught woman [lost 4 children and her husband] who tried holding on to her infant child before the strong waves swept them apart and swallowed her son. Equally saddening was the tale of a woman who had lost three generations of relatives in Nagapattinam where she had come for Christmas celebrations. These are just a couple of stories in a long list of terror-stances caused by the wild waves. The towns of Galle Sri Lanka, Bande Aceh Indnesia, Cuddalore and Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu India, have been the worst hit. The rescue operations haven't even been able to reach some parts of the Andaman islands. Even as relief operations are underway to rescue the people still alive, epidemic outbreak is imminent with thousands of bodies still lying in the open. There are already reports of otubreak of cholera in the town of Nagapattinam and measles, malaria and diarrhoea in Sri Lanka.
No *cliched* stone should be left unturned in trying to help the misery stricken nations and I make a plea with anyone reading this to donate generously to the Tsunami relief fund. Relief organizations have suggested that the preferred way of helping out is by monetary donations rather than food, clothing and medicine as these things can be bought and distibuted much more easily in the affected nations. There are a number of charities working actively towards this - a list of such charities can be seen at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6762528/site/newsweek .