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The Longest Week in History
Earthquake in Indian Ocean Impacts All of Us
The last week of 2004 seems to be unfurling in slow motion since an earthquake in the Indian Ocean on
Sunday, December 26th, measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale, generated a broad circle of "tsunamis" bringing 30-foot waves crushing down on beaches and ports in 11 different countries: Australia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Thailand. Several news reports mentioned that the Indian Ocean event actually affected the earth's rotation. Estimates of the death toll are revised upwards every few hours, and most recently reached 68,000.
Massive efforts are underway to house, feed, and clothe survivors, prevent the spread of disease, and aid in locating and burying the dead, whose numbers include many international travelers, tourists, and professionals from countries in other regions of the world.
It is feared that among those who perished are bound to be ESL/EFL professionals who were visiting or living in the affected areas. Messages on a growing number of ESL listservs give evidence of the level of concern among those in our profession for the horrific pain and suffering of countless families and individuals whose lives have been forever changed by this natural disaster. On the JALT-TALK listserv, ELT News Editor Mark McBennett announced an online message board dedicated to emergency sharing of information, at http://www.eltnews.com/community/?board=asianemergency. TESOL Arabia Listserv provided a link to a similar message board being maintained by TEFL.com, at http://www.activeboard.com/forum.spark?forumID=46357&subForumID=107892. Another teacher posted a link on the Carolina TESOL listserv for a hospital in Phuket, Thailand, where names of international patients are updated hourly, at http://www.phuket-inter-hospital.co.th/vstoday_Forien.htm. "Some of us may know a student or a friend who might know someone who was possibly in harm's way because of the tsunamis," said the Carolina TESOL message. "What an awful, awful tragedy."
Governments around the world are committing millions of dollars to the cause of giving emergency assistance. The United States government announced $35 million, about .04 percent of the estimated $80 billion the Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress for towards the war in Iraq this coming year.
In an interview on the PBS News Hour in the United States, on December 28th, Ray Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America, predicted that the eventual cost of the South Asia disaster would be in the billions of dollars.
The International Herald Tribune Online listed the following interational organizations where those who want to help can donate money.
The Red Cross
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
World Health Organization
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
International Humanitarian Aid Organization (Medair)
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières
The relief effort will be a huge challenge, with the need for a great deal of coordination among nations and organizations. At times like these, it becomes ever more clear how wasteful it is to spend time, money, and resources supporting a warring pathos--and how much faster and more effective our responses to natural disasters and ecological challenges could be if we were better at peacefully resolving political and cultural differences which, by comparison, seem so slight.
Article by Robb Scott
2004 ESL MiniConference Online