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Disaster Strikes South Asian, East African Nations
By: Rashard Zanders
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
Originally posted 1/3/2005

MINNEAPOLIS (NNPA) –The massive, oceanic earthquake off the west coast of the Asian nation of Sumatra has claimed more than 100,000 lives, according to the latest death toll figures at the time of this writing.

The resulting tsunami — seismic sea waves towering between 20-40 feet high – will have a human and economic impact on the region for years to come.
Nearly every nation in the Indian Ocean’s vicinity has been affected.

Sea levels have also been affected as far away as California. One scientist has surmised that the massive, 8.9 Richter scale (or 9.0 according to some sources) earthquake may have even altered Earth’s orbit, however slightly.

Reuters reported that dozens of people were killed when the tail end of the tsunamis slammed into coastal areas of Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania.Integrated Regional Information Networks reported in the same article that the African death toll could creep higher, as many coastal villages and towns have been destroyed or completely submerged under water.

In Somalia, at least 50 people were killed in the Puntland villages of Gara’g and Hafun.As of this writing, the confirmed number of dead — in 10 countries — stands at 55,175 and rising. Indonesia’s Aceh province accounts for 27,174, roughly half of those killed.In Sri Lanka, latest numbers indicate 17,640 have died.

In India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands, there are 4,000 people confirmed dead, with another 6,000 missing.

In Thailand, the estimate of the dead was 1,516, with another 1,200 people listed as missing. In addition to those indigenous to the area, about 700 foreign tourists, mostly European, were among those feared dead. The death toll is expected to continue climbing upwards, as well as the figure for those injured in the disaster.

Also, the high number of openly decomposing corpses increases the threat of epidemic diseases and other health risks. According to UN disaster relief coordinator Jan Egeland, relief operations “would be the biggest ever as the destruction was not confined to one country or region.” She also added “the cost of the devastation will be in the billions of dollars. It would probably be many billions of dollars (Turkish Press, December 28).”

Xinhua Online (, has confirmed that warning systems were virtually nonexistent: “Asian officials conceded Monday that they failed to issue broad public warnings immediately after a massive undersea earthquake in Indonesia, which could have saved countless lives from the subsequent giant waves that smashed into nine countries. But governments insisted they did not know the true nature of the threat because there was no international system in place to track tidal waves in the Indian Ocean —an area where they are rare — and they can’t afford to buy sophisticated equipment to build one. “

Robert Morton, a research geologist with the United States Geological Survey for 30 years, told the MSR that, despite past tsunami-induced loss of life in the region, the countries affected by Indian Ocean tsunamis do not have an adequate warning system in place to identify the life-threatening event.

The quake last weekend was triggered because the Indo-Australian plate is being subducted beneath, or pushed under, the Eurasian plate at its east margin.

Therefore, most Tsunamis generated in this area are propagated toward the southwest shores of Java and Sumatra, rather than into the Indian shores, according to News India ( “These are not land-based earthquakes. Tsunamis are the disruption of the ocean floor,” said Morton.

He added that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, based in Hawaii, actually posted warnings for the potential of tsunamis when the earthquake was recorded. Those warnings, however, did not reach the poorer and less technologically advanced countries that took the impact, but did reach the U.S.Pacific-Northwest coast, where the tsunamis would have had the most impact. There are tsunami escape routes in the Pacific northwestern United States.

“Globally, that information was available, in the sense of the technology being in place to establish that the earthquake was sufficient and optimum for generating a tsunami. However, there’s no communication infrastructure in place to warn people. Communication infrastructure is about taking information and disseminating it down to the lowest levels. Secondly, education. Without the later, the former doesn’t make a difference,” said Morton.

In addition, Morton said that even if residents are familiar [with the threat], “you have tourists doing the opposite of what they should have — wading out into it.

“When I describe the Pacific basin, there is good cooperation — Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., he said. But in reference to nations struck by the disaster he said, “They know they have a problem, but they have not been able to find the money, programs, collaborations...after this, I think you will find nations more willing to cooperate in the immediate relief effort, and relief for the longer term.”

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, pledged millions in U.S. disaster relief for tsunami-affected regions to the sum of $15 million, in addition to $400,000 previously released in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, according to That figure is also expected to rise.

Donations can be sent to the following aid agencies to assist those devastated by the earthquake/tsunamis in South Asia and East Africa whom are mostly poor people.

American Red Cross International Response Fund
PO Box 37243
Washington, DC 20013

Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane
Santa Barbara, CA 93117

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres
PO Box 2247
New York, NY 10116-2247

International Medical Corps
11500 West Olympic Blvd, Ste. 506
Los Angeles, CA 90064

International Orthodox Christian Charities
Middle East Crisis Response
PO Box 630225
Baltimore, MD 21263-0225

Mercy Corps
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208

Operation USA
8320 Melerose Avenue, Ste 200
Los Angeles, CA 90069

Catholic Relief Services
PO Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090


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