Why Now?
Monday, December 27, 2004
  Government Reaction to the Tsunami

Listening to the World Today on the BBC I heard officials from governments talking total piffle. They are claiming that there was no way of providing warning to their populations. That is interesting given that Japan, Hawaii, and the US West coast have a tsunami warning system in place. The equipment would have provided up to four hours of warning of the approaching tsunami.

A Cal Tech professor described the Sumatran fault line as a regular center of massive earthquakes every couple of centuries. The professor noted that the American warning systems weren't installed until after massive damage from tsunamis in 1946 in Hawaii and then in 1964 in Northern California. He assumed that the governments around the Indian Ocean would now discover the existence of warning systems.

This AP story has a lot of the facts about warning systems. It has been reported on NPR and other outlets that the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued warnings to the countries around the Indian Ocean, but they had no plan in place to use the information.

Excuse me, how about getting on every radio and television station and screaming: RUN AWAY FROM THE OCEAN! Oh, I'm sorry, that would cause panic, which would obviously be worse than a forty-foot wall of water slamming into your house.

The UN has called donor nations "stingy" in the amounts they are pledging for relief efforts. The US has announced it will commit $14 million, which is a lot of money. Okay, so maybe Acme, Inc. is spending $44 million on the coronation, and the Mess in Mesopotamia is costing $1.5 billion/day, but that $14 million would probably pay for three or four vacation trips to Crawford. As CNN keeps pointing out in its story, only 3 dozen non-Asians have died, and Oprah's interior decorator survived, and you have to keep things in perspective.

My perspective would be that the US has a major "hearts and minds" problem at the moment; many of the areas hit are Muslim; a generous demonstration of American goodwill and assistance couldn't hurt.


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