Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing-Day Tsunami

It's already two years since the massive Tsunami visited Asia and wreaked the kind of havoc that can be glimpsed only in Hollywood blockbusters. The loss of lives and the destruction of the infrastructure only added to the tragedy while the numbers told their own story. It appears that a total of 229,866 people were lost, including 186,983 dead and 42,883 missing.

According to Michael West, John J. Sánchez, Stephen R. McNutt in their paper Periodically Triggered Seismicity at Mount Wrangell, Alaska, After the Sumatra Earthquake, The magnitude of the earthquake was originally recorded as 9.0 on the Richter scale, but has been upgraded to between 9.1 and 9.3. At this magnitude, it is the second largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. This earthquake was also reported to be the longest duration of faulting ever observed, lasting between 500 and 600 seconds, and it was large enough that it caused the entire planet to vibrate at least half an inch, or over a centimetre. It also triggered earthquakes in other locations as far away as Alaska.

A disaster of this proportion prompted massive humanitarian aid and relief efforts from the entire world, and according to figures from the United Nations and quoted by the BBC it seems that $6.7 billion were pledged in total. However, the same news report goes on to say that some governments have yet to deliver yet $550m of the humanitarian aid pledged for the victims.

The UN figures show that the US has given just 38% of the aid it pledged. In Europe, the UK, France and Italy, as well as the European Commission, have also failed to fulfil their pledges so far.

According to the UN figures, the Commission still has to pay about $70m while the UK has $12m outstanding.

The UK says it has given £195m towards humanitarian assistance and long-term reconstruction, £55m of this through the European Union.

Among Asian countries, China and Australia are among those yet to pay up while Germany only paid its full $128m sum in late December.

Source BBC News


A detailed summary of expenditure by agency and country can be accessed by clicking this http://ocha.unog.ch/ets/

However, the most significant development was the way the world wide web came to the rescue of relief efforts, and demonstrated how effectively the Internet could be used to mobilise resources, provide key information and initiate action.

In fact, the blog that started it all - SEA-EAT blog - provide the template for future relief efforts conducted online and was replicated during Hurricane Katrina and the Mumbai Floods, to give two examples.

Bahrain-based blogger Angelo Embuldeniya, who was one of the people behind these blogs, said that the only reason why they did it was because 'there was a need'. It was a spontaneous response to what he and his friends (across the world) saw and felt they had to do something about it.

But at the time they had no clue that they were onto something really big and it was only later "when our bandwidth zapped on two occasions in under 24 hours, we had 500gigs of data transfer and we found the wiki and blog going under and inaccessible error codes popping up instead.. when we checked the stats we saw that we had about on average - 4000 people an hour, and in two days we peaked at more than half a million."

As a result of their success in the Tsunami and Katrina and other relief efforts, he and his friends have now launched re-grouped themselves as the "World Wide Help Group" and set up a dedicated blog with a specific objective of 'using the web to point help in the direction where it's most needed.'

The point is, there was a need and a group of young people without massive funds at their disposal responded with what they knew best, and were able to make a positive impact. Massive funds were not required but just a little imagination.

Now just think that the global military expenditure totals nearly trillion dollars - and yet, the nearly $6 billion pledged have not reached the victims.

It makes one wonder, and I mean, seriously wonder.

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