I have been through a number of scary earthquakes, including two relatively big ones in Los Angeles, a couple in Tokyo and one in Alaska.
But nothing compares to a 9.0 quake. These quakes I experienced were scary to me — but I can’t even imagine the devastation that is now being reported in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Somalia, and other places around the rim of countries surrounding the Sumatran region of Indonesia and the Andaman Islands.
It is also a bit eery to note that the devastating earthquake that hit the ancient Iranian city of Bam hit on December 26, 2003 — exactly one year after yesterday’s quake off of Indonesia.
I have a good friend, a former public relations genius for AT&T and citizen activist, who lives in Phuket, Thailand — and this note came in from him yesterday:
In case you are Wondering…………………..
Tidal waves from the Sumatra earthquake hit the West coast beaches of Phuket this morning about 10:00 AM.
Normally I walk the length of Patong beach every morning around 7 AM. This morning was different because I had guests for Christmas dinner last night until mid-night. So, I was slower at greeting the “Boxer Day” morning and decided to delay my daily walk until sunset…
Since my arrival in May I’ve never heard a helicopter or any plane fly over Patong. A siren blaring is a rare occurance too. While I was at my computer at 11:00 AM — in the only room that doesn’t face Patong from my hillside perch [about 300 ft above sea level] — helicopters suddenly flew overhead and many police and ambulance sirens started howling along the roads below.
Then I looked out and saw that water had flooded the streets and 1st floors of buildings two blocks inland from the beach. Hmmm, must be a big water main burst. Odd too, I thought, none of the big boats were at anchor in front of the beach and there weren’t any para-sailors being launched by the power boat concessions there.
It wasn’t long before people started streaming up our hillside road,
dragging their soaked possessions…in various states of shock and bewilderment with incredible survivor stories to tell…many looking for friends or spouses they were traveling with who have suddenly disappeared.
My condo has been turned into a refugee center of sorts for a couple of elderly UK tourists and some Thai friends who have had their businesses or homes washed away.
This afternoon I drove Kenya, who owns one of the best restaurant’s in Patong, back into town [about five minutes down my hillside] to survey the damage to his business. The huge boats that had been in the harbor were thrown up side streets along with big four-wheel drive trucks that appeared to have been flipped over many times before they came to rest in a hotel lobbies, restaurants or tailor shops. The one mile of completely paved beachfront promenade is gone…massive parts dragged out to sea or pushed two blocks inland.
The devastation is stunning to comprehend. The death toll and number of people missing and feared washed out into the Andaman Sea rises hourly.
Terror is a three phase Tsunami.
America’s Gulf region has devastating hurricanes, and there are many disasters of incredible scale around the world. Bad stuff happens, and it’s at these times that magnanimity and humanity are measured.
I hope that Americans help lead aid efforts and generously help rebuild and assist those mostly impoverished communities who have been destroyed by this natural disaster.
I’ll never forget hearing conservative California-based journalist and former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Bruce Herschensohn say that communities that suffer “act of God” natural disasters should help themselves and reject federal government assistance and help from other outsiders. He said this after Hurricane Andrew hit Florida and Louisiana hard and also after the 7.3 magnitude Landers, California earthquake in June 1992.
Bruce Herschensohn further clarified that he felt that the federal government ought not to aid communities devastated by earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides, tornadoes, fires, tidal waves, and other natural disasters. Bruce was a very popular conservative in California politics — but let’s hope that his brand of compassion is out of style.
Politically speaking, my gut tells me that China is going to further advance its interests in the region by pouring aid and support into all of those communities that have been hit. Francis Fukuyama skeptically outlined China’s thus far successful charm offensive in Asia, and I think he gets it mostly right.
The question is whether America is going to allow the distractions at hand in the Middle East distract from global engagement elsewhere.
— Steve Clemons