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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Monday, December 27, 2004
Maldives... the sunny side of life
While I was enjoying egg nog with relatives late on Christmas Day, a massive earthquake (magnitude 9.0) occured in the Indian Ocean about one hundred miles off the coast of Sumatra. Hours later, tsunamis struck Indonesia (of which Sumatra is part), Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and the Maldives. Over 22,000 people were killed.

I have always been fascinated by tsunamis and I have imagined what it must feel like to see the ocean recede suddenly from the shoreline and then return as an enormous wall of water. However, my mind reels at the thought of tsunamis striking the Maldives, a collection of 1,000+ tiny coral islands south of India. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the highest point on the Maldives is only 2.4 meters above sea level. Eighty percent of the country is one meter or less above sea level!

Given millions of gallons of water in the form of a forty foot wave and a collection of short-statured islands, it is possible that the Republic of Maldives temporarily disappeared from the face of the earth. It is miraculous that out of 340,000 Maldivians, there are only (as of this writing) 52 dead and 68 missing.

For a country whose main industry is tourism, you may not be surprised that the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board paints a bright and sunny picture of the country. It takes some digging to find a Press Release and a "Situation Assessment" that are a little bit suggestive of a nation recently underwater. Planning your next vacation? I know an exotic location on the equator that has recently become very affordable.
This post gives me the opportunity for a brief rant. As you all know, it is currently raining in Southern California. Lightly raining. Also, now over 24,000 people have died and over a million are homeless in South Asia. What opens the 11:00 news here in L.A? You guessed it, the rain! The only network that gave an accounting of the tragedy that even hinted at the enormity was the BBC (although I still despise them).
Rant acknowledged. This is so devastating there's not much that I feel I can say. This is truly a case where pictures are worth 1,000 words. The pictures I have seen are absolutely crushing. Mainly those of parents grieving over children, whose bodies are shown in the pictures as well.
The actual numerical magnitude of this tragedy is mind-numbing. Imagine one person grieving for a lost child or spouse -- an unimaginable life altering loss. Multiply that by tens of thousands. I can’t say anything about something so ginormously bad. Is this the worst natural disaster in recent years? Did the earthquake in Iran kill more people? It’s hard to grasp that Nature is so unconsciously cold and amoral. Nature will provide a beautiful sunset, or freeze a single lost hiker to death, or put a beautiful flower before me, or drown 20 thousand souls. May the Almighty comfort the grieving and heal the sick and wounded.
Oven: I heard this morning on the radio that much of the Maldives is still submerged and that some wonder if it can ever really recover as a nation. Words fail me.
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