The Tsunami continued and comments

My hope that the comments section of the blog would become as interesting as the things I post is coming to fruition. In case folks didn’t check the comments section of yesterday’s post, there were perceptive comments by frequent guest blogger C.P. Pandya, activist Troy Cochrane, and ZNet’s Cynthia Peters. Below is Pandya’s comment:

“Unfortunately even in the case of natural disasters, there are unnatural economic and political forces at work. In the case of the tsunami and earthquake that have ravaged southern and south eastern asia, perhaps some of the death could have been avoided. Had the international community chosen to spend some money, early-warning indicators could have been placed on the sea floor that could have flagged the approaching tsunami and residents could have fled to higher points on shore. The Pacific rim has such early-warning indicators, which are – as I understand it – seismic detectors that can measure an oncoming earthquake and the possibility of a subsequent tsunami within 3 to 15 minutes of it hitting shore. Such detectors were put in place by a UNESCO-related agency in the last-half of the last century – but only in the Pacific rim, an area that encompasses the western US and Canada among other regions. The decision to put such detectors on the Pacific rim was a matter of “efficient resource allocation” to put it crudely. The logic behind the decision was that 95% of the world’s earthquakes originate in the Pacific rim. Sounds logical, sure. BUT…one of the most volatile regions in terms of plate tectonics is the Indian ocean where the India plate is hitting the Burma plate. It was this collision of the two plates, long known to scientists and policy makers as a great danger, that caused yesterday’s destruction.”

Troy and Cynthia noted that Indonesia may be making the aid effort in Aceh difficult and pressure will be needed to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Cynthia posted the communique of the East Timor Action Network, which I am adding below.

In addition to this blog, I am running Zeynep Toufe’s ‘Under the Same Sun’ until tomorrow. I posted yesterday’s entry there as well, and got useful links in the comments section. (International Federation of Red Cross/Crescent Societies)

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A perceptive reader in that blog noted the ongoing incident as an example of the power of the media to make people feel compassion:

“As I see stories about the East Indies quake/tsunamis and note the now-22,000+ death toll, I’m noticing how effectively (and appropriately) the media are encouraging compassion in viewers and I’m thinking, What if a commensurate amount of exposure were given and compassion kindled into far deadlier man-made atrocities, like the 1991 US attack on Iraq in which, if I remember correctly, some 200,000 people were killed and most of the infrastructure was destroyed, guaranteeing that deaths would continue en masse into the forseeable future? The way the media are giving attention to this natural disaster seem quite effective, and suggests to me how they could be covering the U.S. destruction of Iraq, pharmaceutical company-caused AIDS deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, etc.”

A very good point.

Urgent Alert
Call Your Representative Today to Sign Letter on U.S. Emergency Response to Earthquake and Tsunami;
Urge Unrestricted Access to Aceh for International Humanitarian Organizations and Media

As Indonesia and other South and Southeast Asian countries struggle with the effects of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that has already claimed over 20,000 lives – with the death toll expected to rise – please call your Representative in Congress and urge her/him to:

****sign the following Dear Colleague letter initiated by Congressman Crowley to Secretary of State Powell calling for immediate U.S. leadership and action in emergency aid relief. The deadline is Jan. 4. The contact in Mr. Crowley’s office is Gregg Sheiowitz.

***call Secretary Powell and urge him to press Indonesia to allow international NGOs and the media immediate, unrestricted access to Aceh.

Aceh, the region closest to the earthquake, has been almost entirely sealed from foreign presence since the beginning of marti allawinMay2003. There are rumors that the Indonesian government is now debating whether to allow foreign organizations access to Aceh. The U.S. government has offered assistance. Every second delayed contributes to needless death, sickness and suffering. This is clearly not the time for politics to supersede dire humanitarian needs.

Phone calls are the most effective way to contact your Representative. The Congressional switchboard number is 202-224-3121; ask for your Representative’s office. Then ask to speak with the foreign policy aide. If you don’t know who your Representative is, go to to find out. If you are not able to make a phone call, then fax. E-mails are a last option, but are generally less effective than phone calls and faxes.

Please call as soon as possible. For more information, contact Karen Orenstein,, 202-544-6911. Please let us know the results of your phone calls.

A copy of the Congressional Dear Colleague letter follows.

Support Humanitarian Aid for South and South East Asian Tsunami Victims

December 27, 2004

Dear Colleague:

As you know, yesterday South and South East Asia suffered the worst earthquake in the past 40 years. It is being reported that over 23,000 people have been killed and millions displaced from the tsunami caused by this quake. I urge you to join me in sending the below letter to Secretary Powell urging the administration to be the leader in the emergency aid relief effort.

The United States has a moral obligation to help those affected by this tragic natural disaster. If you would like to sign on or for more information please contact Gregg Sheiowitz in my office at or via phone at 5-3965. The deadline to sign will be close of business on January 4, 2005.


Joseph Crowley

Member of Congress

December XX, 2004

The Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Powell,

We are deeply saddened and concerned by the loss of 23,000 lives from the worst earthquake in the past 40 years and the 4th strongest in a century. As a strong leader in the world, the United States must be at the forefront of dispensing emergency humanitarian aid to the scores of nations affected by this tragedy. We are pleased to see President Bush’s December 26, 2004 release regarding the Bay of Bengal earthquake stating, “The United States stands ready to offer all appropriate assistance to those nations most affected” but we must back these words up with immediate action.

As you know, the death toll is expected to rise with thousands more reported missing in eight countries after the tsunami ripped through coastal communities. We believe the relief effort must first be focused on ensuring the people affected by this massive tsunami have clean water and food due to the fact the flood waters contaminated the drinking water and food is scarce. Second, the humanitarian effort must also be focused on stopping disease before it spreads through the population who survived this horrible ordeal. While aid workers access the damage done by the tsunami, it is important for the United States to take the lead in dispensing aid, we must lead by example.

We also believe that to ensure this high loss of life does not occur again, we urge you to work with the South and South East Asian nations to assist them in setting up a network warning system for earthquakes in the Indian Ocean similar to the one along Pacific Rim nations in North America, Asia and South America. We also believe that better coordination is needed between the international tsunami warning system and all nations even where tsunamis have been rare like in the Indian Ocean. The United States Agency for International Development should work with all the countries in South and South East Asia to develop an early warning system to save lives from future tsunamis.

We look forward to your immediate action for those millions affected by this tragedy and thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.


Karen Orenstein
Washington Coordinator
East Timor Action Network: 13 Years for Self-determination and Justice
202-544-6911 (t/f);

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

2 thoughts on “The Tsunami continued and comments”

  1. I write from a Sri Lankan
    I write from a Sri Lankan perspective.

    Although the Tsunami was a natural disaster, it need not have been so bad. The people most affected were poor. For example, the number of tourists killed was extremely low, considering that tourist hotels are built right next to the beach, while people living in small, jerry-built houses in the adjacent villages were easy victims of the waves.

    Because the people have no housing (there is a shortage of nearly a million dwellings in Sri Lanka), they squat on the beach and build flimsy shacks and shanties. It is these squatters who were most affected by the Tsunami. The main damage in the capital, Colombo was to buildings like these in the shanty-towns of Mutwal and Moratuwa. In Seenigama, north of the tourist resort at Hikkaduwa, single-storey houses next to the beach were destroyed, but the shrine of the god Devol, which is on a small off-shore island, survived.

    Seenigama, Telwatte (where the train was derailed) and the other villages to the north of Hikkaduwa have very poor people. The main industries are coral mining (to make lime for buildings), rope making and fishing. A large number of people work in hotels, in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Many women have gone to the Middle-East as housemaids. These are the well-off ones.

    People continue mining the coral reefs even though it is illegal because they are poor – it is back-breaking work, involving diving. The profits are made by the transporters and wholesalers, a tightly-knit mafia. The coral reef has been destroyed, so the beach gets eroded at the best of times. The Tsunami swept up through the breach in the coral reef and gouged out large sections of the shoreline.

  2. I’ve managed to save up
    I’ve managed to save up roughly $70044 in my bank account, but I’m not sure if I should buy a house or not. Do you think the market is stable or do you think that home prices will decrease by a lot?

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