All Tragedy is Local. The Scale is Global.

Minutes after the tsunami hit, my uncle, an American engineer who works and travels in Southeast Asia, received a text message from a friend vacationing in Phuket, Thailand:

"Water is everywhere. Bodies floating everywhere you look. Next wave due in 10 minutes. Trying to get to higher ground. If we don't make and you never see me again, remember...I love ya man."

The raw footage at Reuters shows how unable the victims were to understand the scope; Thai police video of bikini-clad tourists literally sauntering to outpace what seemed to be an aberently swift tide.

The scale of this tragedy is the closest to what we imagine in our worst science fiction. No warning. No dark cloud. Nowhere to run. No way to wrap our heads around the sheer longitude of destruction wrought by such a vast, seeping sea.

Sumatra��once an name I equated with spices and sultry Indonesian intrigue��is an island of despair.

Irony follows tragedy as Sri Lanka, along with other nations with long-standing civil wars, faces the aftermath and complications of the disaster, including landmines.

�Mines were floated by the floods and washed out of known mine fields, so now we don't know where they are, and the warning signs on mined areas have been swept away or destroyed,� UNICEF's Ted Chaiban said from the agency's office in Colombo in a statement released at UN headquarters in New York. ~ via The Australian

To help get a sense of the geological scale of the tsunami, DigitalGlobe has posted multiple satellite images��including before and after photos��of several affected coastal regions.

For those dumbfounded on-lookers [like me and the US Government] in contributing our resources towards the largest relief effort in world history, there are several methods to make donations. It is important to remember, as the Center for International Disaster Information phrases it in it's Frequently Asked Questions, CASH DONATIONS ARE BEST.

Your generosity is deeply appreciated, but from years of experience with hundreds of disasters we have learned that cash contributions are by far the most useful response. Financial contributions allow professional relief organizations to purchase exactly what disaster victims need most urgently and to pay for the transportation necessary to distribute those supplies.

By purchasing exactly what is needed, relief agencies can avoid the oversupply of what is not needed and the purchase of those urgently needed commodities which might be in short supply. Unlike in-kind donations, cash donations entail no transportation cost. In addition, cash donations allow relief supplies to be purchased at locations as near to the disaster site as possible.

This approach has the triple advantage of stimulating local economies (providing employment, generating cash flow), ensuring that supplies arrive as quickly as possible and reducing transport and storage costs. Cash contributions also allow for the purchase of food, clothing, and other items that are culturally appropriate. Cash contributions to established legitimate relief agencies are always considerably more beneficial than the donation of commodities.


Center for International Disaster Information

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami

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