FaithWorld

from The Human Impact:

Death in “Dev Bhoomi” – Disaster in Hinduism’s holiest place

Prakash Kabra recites his elder brother’s mobile number and I carefully tap it into my phone – already knowing the response, but still with a naïve sense of hope.

"The number you are calling is either switched off or unreachable at the moment. Please try again later," says the automated reply.

It’s a response Prakash has heard countless times over the last six weeks. Yet he continues to call, hoping against hope that his brother – missing since deadly floods and landslides devastated India’s Himalayas – will answer.

Along with 14 other family members, Prakash's brother, a businessman from the city of Lucknow, had travelled to the scenic northern region of Uttarakhand for the "Char Dham Yatra" – the most sacred of pilgrimages for the world's one billion Hindus.

But the Kabra family did not return home and their faces, along with thousands of others, now stare out from posters plastered on the walls of police stations, hospitals and bus stations in towns and villages across the area.

A Buddhist burial in the rain for Japanese tsunami victims

burial 1

(At a funeral in Kassenuma town, Miyagi prefecture March 26, 2011/Carlos Barria)

Ten flimsy wooden coffins were laid on two sturdy rails at a hastily prepared cemetery of mostly mud as Keseunnuma began burying its dead from the tsunami that ripped apart the Japanese coastal city. Desperate municipalities such as Kesennuma have been digging mass graves, unthinkable in a nation where the deceased are almost always cremated and their ashes placed in stone family tombs near Buddhist temples. Local regulations often prohibit burial of bodies.

The number of dead in Kesennuma was 551 as of Saturday, far too many for local crematoriums that can typically manage about 10 bodies a day but are now facing shortages of kerosene. Another 1,448 in the city of about 74,000 are missing from the tsunami two weeks ago that has left more than 27,500 people dead or missing across Japan.

from Tales from the Trail:

Haiti … Too Much Suffering

QUAKE-HAITI/Having hurtled by car through the Dominican Republic to the ramshackle Haitian border, I and four other foreign journalists were desperate to reach Port-au-Prince by nightfall. So after exchanging Ramon's beaten-up taxi for the the back of a modern pickup owned by one of Haiti's elite families, our speed stresses were soon put into terrible perspective.

Just a mile or two into Haiti, a group of people stood disconsolately by the road, trying to flag down any vehicle that would stop, and pointing to the collapsed face of a nearby quarry. "There's someone inside there," one of them said, pointing to a pile of rocks.

Before we had time to even consider helping them, our car -- like all the others in the convoy -- had sped off, kicking up dust. The Haitians driving myself and four other foreign journalists into the earthquake zone took the morally nightmarish decision for us. After all, they had their own missing friends and family to find fast in Port-au-Prince.

Buddhist charity turns bottles into blankets for disaster victims

bottles (Photo: Crushed plastic bottles at the Tzu Chi Foundation recycling factory in Taipei, 4 Nov 2009/Nicky Loh)

A plastic bottle thrown into a Taipei recycling bin could be reincarnated as a blanket to warm disaster victims in any of 20 countries, thanks to a unique project by the world’s largest Buddhist charity.

The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has been taking plastic bottles from the waste stream of Taipei, a city of 2.6 million, for three years to convert them into about 244,000 polyester blankets intended for disaster zones. It has sent volunteers with relief supplies to some of the world’s biggest disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005 and last year’s devastating Sichuan earthquake in China.

This week, Tzu Chi expanded its one-of-a-kind recycling effort to begin making shirts, scarves and cloth shopping bags.  It sends the plastic bottles to a factory that breaks them down into a polyester fabric, which is then sent to crew of volunteers who fashion it into blankets or garments.