Tuesday, December 28, 2004

My God ...

The earthquake-generated tidal waves have killed tens of thousands of people in the Indian Ocean region:

Indonesia's Health Ministry said in a statement that thousands more bodies were found Tuesday, raising to more than 27,000 the number of confirmed deaths in parts of Sumatra island, the territory closest to the epicenter of the quake that sent tsunami waves rolling across the Indian Ocean. The count did not include a report of 10,000 more dead in the region around one coastal city.

Sri Lanka listed 21,700 people dead, India 4,400 and Thailand 1,500, with the toll expected to rise. A total of more than 300 were killed in Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Somalia, Tanzania, Seychelles and Kenya.

Officials had not yet counted the dead in two zones that suffered the brunt of both the earthquake and the tsunami that followed: the west coast of Sumatra and India's remote Andaman and Nicobar archipelagos just north of Sumatra.

Purnomo Sidik, national disaster director at Indonesia's Social Affairs Ministry, said 10,000 people had been reported killed in and around Meulaboh, a poor Sumatran town where most people are fishermen or workers on palm oil plantations. In India, police said 8,000 people were missing and feared dead on
the two island chains.

To lose so many this way seems so primitive. It is a tragedy from history where nature overwhelms people and civilizations. But this is not history. Nor is it civilization ending. As tragic as it is, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Thailand will survive. For many, it will take years to rebuild their lives. For many, the loss of loved ones--and so many children--will ruin their lives. It is truly heart-breaking. The scale of the loss of life staggers me.

As the governments of the countries affected struggle to respond, the US military is swinging into action to help:

The focus of the mission will be to prevent further loss of life and human suffering by expeditiously applying resources to the overall relief effort. The FCE team is comprised mainly of personnel from the III Marine Expeditionary Force. Additional personnel will be deployed from other locations in the Pacific command area of responsibility.

US ships and planes are converging on the area. We help because we can. Because nobody else can even approach our ability to help. And because we care. We aren't stealing anybody's oil and Halliburton isn't getting a sweet contract out of this. We see people in trouble and we are deploying without asking what is in it for us.

Whether we destroy despots or help those suffering in natural disasters, we use our power for good.