Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Not good enough


As I write, the toll has climbed to over 50,000. Cheh Zhai Meen says if you have DBS internet banking, you can make your contributions payable to RED CROSS TIDAL WAVES ASIA. Thanks for leaving that comment. While it doesn't seem appropriate to apportion blame in an event such as this, I'm of similar sentiment as Mr Brown when it comes to Singaporeans and their actions (if any) in attempting to ameliorate the suffering. Why so slow? Can't we fly our vaunted medical team there first, then help evaluate what needs to be done? Surely there'll be things to do as soon as you hit the ground, no? Maid agencies here can send sacked domestic helpers back to Indonesia faster than you can blink an eye, man! Not good enough, dudes! (Update: RSAF C-130 with supplies despatched to Medan) Also, you know when the people in Colorado discovered the massive earthquake, and measured it as a very big one under the sea off Indonesia, how come it didn't occur to their expert brains that tsunamis would more likely than not, ensue? And if it did occur to them, it would've occurred to them that it would have ensued on such a devastating scale that would have prompted them to take ALL POSSIBLE MEANS to contact AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE in the region affected. What do you mean by NO WARNING SYSTEM? Use your blain! Call the State Department, call consulates, you have internet? Google! Wah lao! You can put decimal places on the Richter scale and you cannot make a few simple phone calls?! It's not as if it hasn't happened before! Not bloody good enough, dudes! (Update: From NYT (login required): ...The Pacific center, operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, faced two problems in recognizing what was occurring in the Indian Ocean and alerting potential victims. There is no direct connection between an earthquake magnitude and a resulting tsunami. Not all quakes under the ocean lift the ocean floor to displace the water needed to create a tsunami.... ...Dr. McCreery, the Honolulu center's director, said the initial estimate of the earthquake's magnitude, 8.0, would have been likely to generate a local tsunami....) My World Bank friend, who's back in Washington tells me news coverage in the US of the disaster is appalling. It seems this is just some earthquake and big waves somewhere in Asia, and the only thing worth reporting is how many Americans have been victims of the disaster. Probably because holidaymakers in the region are predominantly European and not American, says my World Bank friend, who called me earlier very upset that her favourite beach in the world, Raily, is no more, and she doesn't know what's become of her friends who live there.


12 Comments:

Blogger azzzzzz said...

news just in: earthquake hits japanno immediate reports of injuries or damage from the quake, which occurred around 6:30 p.m. (0930 GMT). No tsunami warning was issued.

12/29/2004 01:16:00 AM  
Blogger KnightofPentacles said...

Okay. Take a deep breath. We are all upset by this terrible tragedy. However assigning blame is not going to help much. We do the best of what we can and leave the rest in the hands of <#insert deity of choice>.

However I feel compelled to throw in my 2 bits in defence of NOAA, which operates the PTWC of out of Hawaii (not Colorado).

First of all as the name implies, the PTWC covers the Pacific basin, not the Indian ocean. This is the "not my area of responsibility" defence which should be familar to Singaporeans.

Secondly, the PTWC did what they could by the book. The warnings were posted to the Pacific nations under 20 minutes after the event. The PTWC does not have established channels of communications to this part of the world.

Thirdly, even if the information was successfully relayed to the relevant nations (ignoring the redtape you would have to cut through to establish the information flow). What are the chances the information would be verified by the recipients and disseminated to the masses before the tsunami hit? We are talking a timeframe of one to two hours maximum here.

Finally, I remember there was an earlier initiative to put in tsunami early warning sensors for the Indian ocean but the plans got killed due to lack of cooperation amongst the nations involved and the high costs (approx US$325,000 each) of the sensors involved.

Rage at the slowness of aid to the affected areas, if you must. Or rage at the insular nature of the US news media. However I feel the folks at NOAA/PTWC should not have their feet held over hot coals for this "failure".

Disclosure: I am a fan of the NOAA, especially the National Hurricane Center.

12/29/2004 03:49:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

Thanks for the information. I've been educating myself, and should've done so before ranting. But you know with 55,000 dead so far...

12/29/2004 04:12:00 AM  
Blogger Jayaxe said...

Regarding the DBS payment, it requires us to fill in the consumer reference number (which is usually provided when paying bills).

Since this is a non-bill payment, DBS actually want its customer donors to fill in their contact number as the reference number. For more info, click here.

I just donated too. Hope it helps.

12/29/2004 04:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you about our, um, "advance" medical team, Mr. Miyagi. The baby brother and I discussed this - he's serving the nation someway relevant - chances are they will be helping to fish bodies out of the water more than anything else. Or deal with a possible cholera epidemic. Sucks.

chainsawieldinun

12/29/2004 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: the pathetic coverage of the disaster in US..

I feel that it's just an inkling of the perennial race issue. When i logged onto british football forums, the english people were posting things like

"It's snowing... And all these people complaining about tsunamis? Don't know how lucky they've got it.."

Very poor attempt at humour. And these are the same people who got their knickers all twisted in a knot when for eg, stadium diasters like the Heysel in 1985 are brought up. I wonder if this were to happen elsewhere nearer to them... but i must say i wont wanna wish something like this on anyone, anywhere

Though i would like to point out not all ang-mohs are like that. Just the sad gits.

keithf from blogdrive

12/29/2004 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Da Playboy Bunny said...

Ya lor.. 1 hour before Tsunami strike leh.. NOT ENOUGH TIME TO WARN MEH ?!

12/29/2004 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Da PlayBoy Bunny:

In Acheh's case, they don't even have the luxury of an hour's notice. Maybe for the countries such as The Maldives or Somalia, but when you're near the epic center of the quake - most don't have 1-2 hours.

12/29/2004 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Samantha said...

There are a number of things you're overlooking, which I can understand, because yes, the death toll is completely overwhelming and I understand your rage at feeling helpless, and the sense that this shouldn't have happened, and how bloody unfair that people who already had so little to begin with had to lose everything else too, BUT:

1) Why Singapore (and other countries) are not responding as quickly as you'd like:

One of the most important things when organizing natural disaster aid/relief efforts is ensuring that the right kind of aid is going to the right people and area. Organizing an effort that comes from dozens of countries and that's supposed to reach a dozen countries is a logistical nightmare.

Why is organization important? They're approximating the damage (in US$) of this disaster at about US$13 billion. That's a lot of money. It's unlikely, or at least very difficult, for other countries to be able to donate enough cash to cover all that damage. We have to ensure that every dollar counts. That every dollar goes where it does the most good. It's not going to help Thailand to receive food/water relief if what they need most is medical relief, and vice versa for other areas.

2) Why the Earthquake Center could not warn people:

- They didn't know the extent of the disaster. Like the article you linked to (in the NYT) said, tsunamis are not easily detected because a) they aren't always a definite result of an undersea earthquake, and b) they don't reach their destructive stage until right before they hit the shore.

- They didn't have contacts in the affected countries that would've believed them. They couldn't just call a random person in Sri Lanka and tell them "evacuate the coasts, tsunamis headed your way" because they may not have had anyone on hand who could speak the local languages, and really, chances are extremely good that the person on the other end of the line would've laughed at them and hung up. They didn't even have enough time to contact Thai, Indian and Sri Lankan embassies in the U.S.

- Can you imagine how the guys at the earthquake center feel right about now? To know that they had information that could have saved tens of thousands of lives, and they couldn't do anything? Nobody thinks to themselves "Well, I could make a phone call and save tens of thousands of lives, or I could go get a sandwich for lunch." They didn't know the extent, the scope of the disaster, and they didn't have the resources on hand to do anything about it even if they had known. There is nothing you can say about or to them that hasn't already passed through their minds.

3) Why media coverage of the disaster in the US is insular:

People need to have something to relate to, in order to understand the full scope of a tragedy. This is why first-hand blog accounts of the tsunamis are so impactful. Because you get to know someone, get to know their grief in a very personal way. That's part of what the media is trying to achieve. They're trying to get people to think "This could've happened to my neighbor, to me, to my son." That's how you get people to understand on a visceral level.

This is not to say that the US media is completely altruistic. I'm sure part of the reason they want people to understand this on a gut level is because they want to sell more papers/advertising space. And I'm usually full of criticism about the US media. But there are sometimes good reasons they do the things they do.

Just a few rational thoughts, to try to bring your leg down from that knee-jerk position. :)

12/29/2004 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

Thank you. My jaw hurts from knee hitting it.

12/29/2004 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger KnightofPentacles said...

Update:
Apparently Thailand authorities knew but suppressed the tsunami warning.
http://wizbangblog.com/archives/004637.php
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30989-2004Dec28.html?sub=AR

Anybody seen the original report supposedly by _The Nation_?

Sigh. And the ugly part of human nature is surfacing. Reports of looting and resource hoarding are already coming in.

12/29/2004 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Argh, to think that some would hoard resources when others are starving and unreachable. But then again those who are hoarding are also doing it to keep alive. I am really praying for these people..

12/29/2004 09:06:00 PM  

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