27 December 2004


When you think nothing can go wrong, that's the time something will go wrong. In a span of minutes, thousands of Southeast Asians are dead. Just like that.

BANGKOK, Dec. 26 --- The most powerful earthquake in 40 years struck south Asia this morning, triggering tsunamis that smashed into villages, resorts and tourist isles, killing thousands and leaving hundreds missing. Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia were hit hardest as the tsunamis, some 30 feet high, washed away fishermen, tourists, cars and beachside stalls.

The earthquake, which generated tidal surges that could be felt as far away as Africa, hit at 6:58 a.m. local time about 100 miles off the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra. It measured 8.9 on the Richter scale, which made it the largest in the world since 1964 and the fifth largest since 1900, according to the National Earthquake Information Center at the United States Geological Survey.

Officials in Sri Lanka said that more than 4,000 people were killed and Indian officials said more than 2,500 died, according to the Reuters news agency. Indonesian officials said that more than 4,000 were feared dead, while the death toll reached 310 in Thailand and 42 in Malaysia.

Over a million people have been affected by the destruction, officials said, with people fleeing their homes for higher ground, fearing aftershocks that could send more waves to strike the islands and beaches. The death toll could rise considerably as information comes in from remote islands and beach resorts, and the fate of those missing, including the hundreds of fishermen at sea, becomes apparent.


It is less than 5 days until New Year, and still the death train continues to stop and collect its passengers.

What a dreadful year 2004 has become.

I condole with my fellow Asians and pray for the souls of all those affected.

"Nothing like this has ever happened in our country before."

--- Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand said in a televised address

And because nothing like this has happened before, there is massive death and destruction because no one was prepared. No one expected it. This has always been the sad refrain of all calamities post-destruction.

Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. Maybe Andy Grove's admonition holds true not only in technology and business.

He once said: "Only the paranoid survive."

What level of paranoia could have saved thousands? A paranoia that urges both officials and citizens to construct a tsunami warning mechanism or tidal gauges. This contraption could have prevented thousands of people getting killed needlessly by the giant waves.

Read more here.

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