Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Unprecedented and without warning?

One question that I was trying to discern while looking for information on what happened during the earthquake was the time difference between the initial tremors to the time the tsunamis actually hit our country. From the information posted by the Star it stated that the initial earthquake was charted at between 9a.m. to 9.30p.m. While the first waves to hit Penang was at around 11.30a.m. The difference when I actually realized it was about 3 hours and we were caught unaware. Maybe it was the fact that such a catastrophic incident never entered our minds, measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale and being the most devastating in 40 years. Who among us could have imagined being caught in the open without prior warning of a phenomenon we have never experienced. We have mused time and time again in the past when tremors caused buildings to shake and gave us a fright but this time the level of damage was beyond comprehension. Situated in what we have often considered a safe zone from major catastrophe, we simply let our guard down.

In disaster prone areas such as the US, early warning systems are deployed to predict impending catastrophic events that might result in the loss of lives. Protocols and guidelines are drawn up in the event such an event occurs and the relevant departments are ready to respond; tracking stations deal with up to date monitoring of the events, relief teams are sent to deal with the causalities and help in evacuation and news broadcasts are sent out to warn the people and give help on how to get to safety. Why don’t we have such a system? We might put it down to the fact that we never expected such an event to occur, we might plan for every eventuality but we can’t predict every eventuality. Besides allocating the necessary funding to develop a high tech system for monitoring, there are matters of long term funding of staff, infrastructure and equipment. Why only now discuss it? The old adage of “once bitten twice shy” comes to mind. Would the investment translate in benefits of a lower number of casualties? Maybe yes maybe not as Mother Nature is by nature unpredictable and does not recognize political boundaries. Though imprecise and often a game of prediction, every minute of warning might lead to saved lives. Yet even in countries prepared for such eventualities such as Japan, we cannot fully ensure the full safety and protection of its citizens and cities as we seen during the Kobe earthquake.

Most of us are affected. We have friends, family, relatives, acquaintances and colleagues who are situated in the affected zones and many of us were busy trying to discern if any harm had come to them on that infamous day. Many of us are angry and at a loss and we look onto someone to assign blame, be it God, the government or even ourselves. This is not the time to do so, no one could’ve stopped it from happening but with 3 hours might we have saved more lives? We question, what might have been, what might we have done more, if we have done something different would things be better off? So many questions and yet not a single answer.

In the face of tragedy, many of us stood out, we hear of people risking their lives to help those in danger and those that unselfishly come forward to lend their strength in dealing with the injured after the aftermath. Most of all we may ask why this had to happen at all but all we can say is that the Earth is still unpredictable and harsh. Give thanks for small miracles such as the news about a 20 day old baby that was swept away by the wave and thankfully was found safely floating on a mattress. We hear of others less fortunate, losing family and watching helplessly as they were swept away. Even for those not present there, it cuts a deep wound in our hearts. It is sad to hear that people still would think about practical jokes and hoaxes in this time of distress as if we all do not have enough on our minds and hearts as of this moment.

As I’ve said in my last post, the Malaysian Blogscene has played an integral part in helping. Read on PPS on personal accounts by eyewitnesses as well as information on how to help out. Buaya69 blogged that the NOAA had prior indication of the shockwaves after the initial quake yet couldn’t find out the correct authorities to inform about this knowledge. As for what we can do besides offering a prayer and good word to those affected, contribute what we can. Read about how on Papimami while Mac (contact: prf@brandmalaysia.com) has launched a fund to help out victims. The mainstream media has been quick to provide coverage of the situation and has launched funds to help affected victims, refer to both Star and the NST. International pledges and donations please refer to here as well as bob.jots. For more information, Wikipedia has a writeup submitted worldwide on the earthquake.

112,000 (revised) dead and growing, a number that just leaps out at you and causes you to gape in disbelief. Condolences, we all grieve as one.

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