By Jim Young
It was dubbed “Chiberia” here in Chicago: record low temperatures with a wind chill in the -40 Celsius range (-40 Fahrenheit).
Last week a series of unconnected bomb attacks across Asia left dozens dead and many more injured. Thirty-five people were killed in a suicide bombing next to a hospital in Afghanistan's Logar province south of Kabul, at least four police officers were wounded in blast in eastern Pakistan, and suspected Taliban militants stormed a police station in a town in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least five policemen. Four explosions rocked Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw. In Thailand a triple bombing by suspected insurgents kills at least two people and wounded nine others in Thailand's deep south.
Japan - after four days of editing pictures from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan I took an hour break to buy some food and get some money in a small shopping centre near the office. As I walked through the busy street, the thought that stuck me was that everything around me is so temporary. The people along the coast of the Miyagi Prefecture were probably going about their daily business, just like I was, when the wall of water swept through their towns wiping their very existence off the face of the earth. Reports of a nuclear cloud heading towards Tokyo where 13 million people live, added to my sense of fear. In my mind, the world had changed forever. I cannot begin to imagine what the people in Miyagi, the rescue workers and the photographers taking the picture are feeling. From our team of photographers covering the story, I have chosen three pictures from each photographer, not an easy task when there are so many great images. Respect to all the teams covering the story and my condolences to the people of Japan. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
A continual struggle with writing this blog is trying to keep it picture led and not wander off into the top stories from the week that may not have produced the best pictures. This week in Asia we have seen the arrival of U.S President Obama in India, U.S Secretary of State Hilary Clinton doing the rounds, the first election in Myanmar for 20 years (no prizes as to who will win though) not one, but two Qantas jets getting into engine difficulty, the continuing tensions between Japan and China, the failed bid by BHP Billiton to take over of Potash, currency woes as we prepare for G20 in Seoul later this week and let's not forget Afghanistan and bombs in Pakistan. So where to start? Mick Tsikas produced my favourite picture of the week, a fan at the Melbourne Cup; one can only admire the oral control it takes to shout in celebration while holding firmly onto a lit cigarette. I thought this was a skill that died out with the passing of Humphrey Bogart.
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.
As the anniversary of the 9/11 attack coincided with Eid celebrations, Florida based Pastor Terry Jones announced that he would burn the Koran as a protest to plans to site a Muslim cultural centre near Ground Zero , stoking tensions in Asia. Add into the mix millions in Pakistan suffering from lack of water, food and shelter after floods, a parliament election in Afghanistan and a U. S. -led military campaign against the Taliban around Kandahar - photographers in the region had lots of raw material to work with.
Brits work hard and they play hard. This week's Best of Britain includes photos of people doing both. There's a photo of dozens of people seeking to break the world record for naked rollercoaster riders as well as suited up City workers heading to their offices with the Tower Bridge in the background.
One more picture that caught my eye during the 24 hours news cycle for the World Water Day is the image of hundreds of hoses providing drinking water to residents of a housing block in Jakarta. The grubby plastic pipes supplying a fragile lifeline to families seem to represent the desperation that people face when the water supply is cut off.