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from The Great Debate UK:

Preparing for the next tsunami

-- Lord Hunt is a visiting professor at Delft University and emeritus professor at University College London, and former director-general of the UK Meteorological Office. Dr Simon Day is a researcher at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, University College London. The opinions expressed are their own --

INDONESIA-VOLCANO/The devastating tsunami that struck the Indonesian islands of Mentawai may have caused about 450 deaths, with hundreds more still missing, and compounds the disaster caused in the country by the eruption of Mount Merapi in Java. Following a magnitude 7.7 earthquake, the Mentawai Islands were engulfed with estimated three-metre waves that affected thousands of households.

What has shocked many about this latest disaster is the fact that, more than five years after the cataclysmic Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, when at least 187,000 people died (with 43,000 still missing), there were no greater preparations against the devastation.

This is especially puzzling to some as, since 2004, our understanding of the risks of tsunamis and how to reduce their impact has advanced considerably through warnings, forecasting and better tsunami-resistant construction and design.  For instance, in the past five years there has been significant progress in most aspects of warnings around the world, and the Indian Ocean region now has a system in place.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 31 October 2010

In terms of the Ring of Fire, Indonesia had just been too quiet. Warnings that Mount Merapi, which towers above the outskirts of Yogyakarta city on Java island, was about to erupt, were heeded by some and ignored by many. On Monday, a 7.5 magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that hit the remote western Mentawai islands killing at least 343.  A day later, Mount Merapi erupted, killing at least 34.  It took almost three days for Jakarta based photographer Crack Palinggi to reach the scene of the devastation caused by the tsunami. Beawiharta was quicker to scene of the volcano; needless to say it's always worth standing well back when people are evacuating from an erupting volcano.  Bea's picture screams panic, heat and noise of those fleeing as hot ash falls to earth, the drama amplified by the flash blur technique used.  It is in complete contrast to the picture taken a day later of sombre near silence as rescue workers crunch through the muffled ashen landscape like newly fallen snow.

INDONESIA-VOLCANO/

 A woman covers her baby as she runs from ash falling from an erupting volcano at Kaliurang village in Sleman, near Indonesia's ancient city of Yogyakarta, October 26, 2010. Mount Merapi erupted on Tuesday, prompting terrified villagers to flee and join the thousands already evacuated from its slopes, witnesses said.  REUTERS/Beawiharta

from From Reuters.com:

This week we get naked and go flying

What do you get when you cross an economist, the Olympics and lots of naked people? An odd assortment of popular stories for the week. They obviously don’t make for a very funny punchline but they did get you clicking. Here are the stories that warmed your cockles (okay, maybe not, but “cockles” is a fun word, isn’t it?).

1. Winter storms to distort U.S. jobless figures-Summers

FINANCIAL/SUMMERSNothing triggers a good panic like a stern warning from the White House. Maybe that’s why this story made the top of the most popular list this week. Economic adviser Larry Summers said on Monday we should all look past Friday’s monthly unemployment numbers. The winter blizzards that zapped swathes of the U.S. in February would also do a number on the jobs report, making it seem worse than it really was. Maybe you, like me, thought, “Uh-oh, this is going to be way bad.” But wait, the actual report was better than expected. What are we to think now? Should we continue to disregard it? I’m so confused.

from Raw Japan:

“Sorry” excuse for tsunami

Japanese weather forecasters might have been expected to be cheery after a tsunami that hit the country's coast on Sunday proved smaller than feared.

Instead, the agency apologised for "crying wolf" when it urged some 1.5 million people to evacuate ahead of a possible major tsunami.

from The Great Debate:

Drawing humanitarian lessons from disasters

-- Diane Paul is Nonresident Senior Fellow on Natural Disasters and Human Rights, Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement at The Brookings Institution. The views expressed are her own. --

As the world rushes to Haiti’s aid, we should remember some of the lessons of the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Protecting vulnerable people is as important as giving them water, food, or medical care. Children, women, the elderly, and the disabled all have particular vulnerabilities that must be taken into consideration when relief is provided.

from Photographers' Blog:

Choking back the horror

Five years have passed and I still find it hard to talk about the tsunami. When the subject comes up my throat still constricts, choking back the horror and raw pain that I saw and more shockingly, the way the rest of the world seemed to carry-on with daily life. Relief came - sometimes too much of it, but nothing prepares a photographer for the shock of returning to normality from a disaster zone.

I was in Phuket the day before Christmas, dodging the bullet perhaps as my ground floor room would certainly have become my tomb. Back in Singapore the news broke and I flew to Sri Lanka, arriving at the center of the destruction 24 hours after the waves. My first stop was a hospital outside Galle. Hundreds of bodies lay on the damp concrete floor, children in fetal positions next to what rescuers assumed were their parents. Some of them had bandages and IV’s telling the story of the pathetic struggle to save them, others just looked like they were asleep, still in pajamas but slowly bloating.

from Photographers' Blog:

The 2004 tsunami: A Singapore perspective

"Where were you when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hit?"

For me, it is a day I will always remember. I had barely been working as a picture sub-editor on the Asia Desk for a month. I remember being asked to come in early to work that Sunday morning because “an earthquake had hit and it seems quite bad”.

Reaching the office, I watched my television colleagues collect their gear, make phonecalls and fly off on the next flight to Aceh, one of the places reported as being badly hit. The newsgathering process was still very new to me, so I watched with fascination as photographers were alerted, flights were arranged and notes were made to keep track of where each shooter was.

from Your View:

The Great Tsunami/Earthquake 26 Dec 2004

The beach of Kota Kuala Muda which was hit by the 2004 Tsunami at the Tsunami memorial park, Kota Kuala Muda, Kedah, Malaysia.  Your View/Hafizal Nor Bin Abdul Aziz

from Your View:

The Great Tsunami/Earthquake 26 Dec 2004

A motorcyclist drives past a memorial set up by the Kedah state government in malaysia in honor of the victims of the 2004 tsunami.  Your View/Hafizal Nor Bin Abdul Aziz

from Photographers' Blog:

Reliving the tsunami

Today I returned to Aceh, determined to take pictures of the same locations my team and I had photographed five years ago, when the capital Banda Aceh was completely devastated by a tsunami. At the time, I was with two Reuters journalists from the Jakarta bureau.

We landed at Aceh’s Sultan Iskandar Muda airport on December 27, 2004 - one day after the giant waves paralyzed the city, previously unaware of what a tsunami could do to a city. Information from Banda Aceh in the first few days after the disaster was very limited. It dawned on us later that the lack of news from Banda Aceh was because all of the communication facilities had been damaged.

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