Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Tsunami: Devestation and Charity

Over the course of the last week, many news outlets and talk radio hosts were conducting polls and hosting discussions about the biggest news story of the year. But, as this week began, perhaps the biggest news story of my lifetime was just beginning to take shape.

On Sunday, an earthquake ocurred beneath the ocean's surface near the island of Sumatra. This quake which registered a 9.0 on the richter scale was the strongest quake in the last 40 years and unleashed a tsunami that hit Asia and Africa. The devestation from this tsunami is of absolutely epic proportion. Thus far, 77,000 deaths have been confirmed. Some officials fear that the toll will eventually reach 100,000. News reports have been absolutely horrific, although most TV channels have spared audiences from gruesome video footage of bloated and disfigured bodies. And the stench cannot be captured by either print or video media.

Most of the nations affected by the devestation are borderline third-world at best. This means that disease caused by the decaying bodies, the flooding and the lack of clean drinking water will cause serious problems for the people who survived the initial destruction.

The United States, Japan, India and Australia have come together to form a coalition that will coordinate the relief effort. In addition, the United States has already pledged $35 million in relief money. Despite the fact that the United States is currently waging a worldwide War on Terror, the US will also divert several naval vessels, including an aircraft carrier, to the effort. These ships will be able to produce 90,000 gallons of fresh water per day.

Japan, Australia, Great Britain, France and Germany are all contributing over $20 million each to the effort. Nonetheless, U.N. Undersecretary-General of Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland declared on Tuesday that the western nations of the world are being "stingy." Egeland declared that there would be more money available for relief if only these developed nations would raise taxes on their own populations.

I'm sure you call all imagine how the Banshee feels about this comment from a U.N. official. But, I will refrain at this time from bashing the U.N. because it seems inappropriate to detract from the tragedy of this tsunami with political sniping.