India Uncut - The Tsunami Posts

At the end of December 2004 and the beginning of January 2005, I travelled through the tsunami-affected areas of Tamil Nadu, India. These are the posts from just before, during and after my trip that I wrote for my blog, India Uncut.

Friday, December 31, 2004

A picture of hell, and no kerosene

It’s five kilometres of hell, and it’s right here at Nagapattinam.

Kaviarsi studies – make that studied – in the sixth standard. Her schoolbooks lie a short distance away, and besides them lies a doll. The girl herself lies on a makeshift pyre on what used to be her home, her face totally blackened, her neck twisted upwards, the skin peeling off her legs like torn stockings. There is a large empty container of Pepsi lying just besides her, and four other bodies. And besides the pyre, towards the sunset, are five long kilometers of slushy wasteland strewn with dead bodies.

It wasn’t like this five days ago. We – me and two companions – are at a part of Nagapattinam called Akkarapettai, where a prosperous fishing community lived. There is a five-kilometre-long stretch of land here that was filled with houses, and had at its heart a bustling Sunday marketplace. The people here were well off – some of them had expensive fishing launches costing many lakhs of rupees. Then the tsunami came.

These settlements begin half a kilometre from the sea, across the road, but the tsunami swept everything away. Every single house was flooded away, all the way till the end of the stretch, and when I went there, I just saw one long expanse of slush. In the distance, there were pyres burning.

Dr Narasimhan, a man I’d wanted to meet, who heads a team of relief workers that has come down from Salem, told me when I called him that we had to walk into that expanse, beyond the pyres. “Walk towards the sunset till you find me,” he said, and we did.

It took us half-an-hour to traverse the half-kilometre or so until we reached him. The ground was like quicksand in parts, and our shoes would sink in with each step and resist our attempts to lift our feet again. We came across dead bodies on the way: a young girl in a basket, her limbs akimbo, and her face, with some dried blood on it, contorted in an expression that even Damien Hirst would have found too macabre. Three feet away from her lay a woman, with a frozen look of horror on her face, etched into an eerie permanence.

“In an unprecedented situation, you need an unprecedented response”

“For the next five kilometres,” Dr Narsimhan motion towards the setting sun, “you will find bodies everywhere. Only the distance you have walked so far – around half a kilometre – has been cleared of corpses. This is the furthest point till which bodies have been cleared. There is so much work to be done.”

“It’s five days since the tsunami happened,” I say. “Why is this place so deserted, why hasn’t all this been sorted?”

Dr Narasimhan sighs. “Sorted,” he asks. “All that the government has been doing is lining the streets outside with bleaching powder. They are not interested in coming here, they left this to the NGOs. And look at this.” He extends his hands towards me. “We’re doing all the work of moving bodies with surgical gloves made of latex, which are no protection against cuts and bruises.”

I had heard about this before I arrived here, in Pondicherry, where Aid workers had complained that the locals in Nagapattinam had refused to help out in clearing the bodies, and when the aid workers got down to it with their latex gloves, the bodies had started decomposing, and were difficult to manouver, with a limb prone to just falling away from the rest of the corpse.

“We need heavy earth-moving equipment,” he had said. “That way the bodies can be shifted en masse and given a mass burial. That is the only way to deal with this situation.” Mani Shankar Aiyar, India’s petroleum minister, had announced on TV four days ago that such equipment was at the top of his wishlist of aid. Then why did it not materialise? Could the government not mobilise its resources even that much?

But that need is redundant now, says Dr Narsimhan. “What we need now,” he says, “is kerosene. We need to burn bodies as we come along them on this stretch, before they decompose further. And we have no kerosene.

“We’ve been calling aid agencies and so on asking for fuel to burn the bodies with,” he continues, “but we got none. We managed to file some cans of kerosene lying around some of the devastated houses, but there’s no more of even that?”

“But can’t the government give you kerosene?” I ask astonished.

“The government does nothing,” he says. “I thought differently till I came here, but now I’ve seen it for myself. Everything is left to the junior IAS officers, who are in meetings all day. Ministers come, and all they want to know is how many people are dead. They don’t care about relief work at all. In an unprecedented situation you need an unprecedented response. But that has not happened.”

The temple without a toilet

Dr Narsimhan gets back to his work, and I look up, where a helicoptor moves languidly across the sky. “That’s the fifth one today,” says a lady who is part of the doctor’s team.

“They come and ‘survey’ the area,which is so pointless, because you cannot actually see the dead bodies from here amid this debris. It is just a show, to reassure themselves that they’re on top of things. The army officers who come here, they refuse to even touch the bodies. They just hang around aimlessly.”

I ask the lady what she does, and she says that she is a journalist, but would like to remain unnamed for my story. “I have come here to help out and not report,” she says. “That is more important for me.” I look down, ashamed.

She has been here for three days, and I ask her why, mucky though it may be, the place doesn’t have any people looking for their loved ones. “Because the entire community is wiped out,” she says. “There aren’t too many relatives left of the people who have died here, and those that are have become resigned to their loss.”

“Have you been to any of the refugee camps?” I ask her.

“Yes,” she says. “I went to a refugee camp yesterday where there were 1500 homeless people. And not one toilet. Do you know why?

“Because the camp was based in a temple,” she continues, “and you cannot build a toilet in a temple. And I’d gone there to speak to them on health issues! And they cannot even wash their hands.

“And this is not an isolated example. There are scores of refugee camps like this. I hardly call this relief work.”

And how are the NGOs handling the situation, I ask.”Oh, they are doing all the work,the government is doing nothing,” she says. “But even they are competitive, trying hard to stake a claim to territory.” I had noticed a similar tendency when I was on my way here, with many trucks adorned with banners proclaiming the name of the relief agency involved. The organisation I had chosen to travel with, Aid India, was an exception, though, working hard and sincerely to solve every problem that arose.

So why haven’t the press written about this, I ask her. “The press,” she snorts. “The journalists from the Hindu are all flying around with dignitaries. That is the kind of reporting they do.”

The sun has set, and there is a column of smoke rising from the pyres flowing in the direction where the sun was. It is New Year’s eve. I say goodbye to Narasimhan and my unnamed journalist friend, and I do not wish them a happy new year. I wish them kerosene.
amit varma, 11:49 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Despatches 6: Politics

People have died, but politics lives on. A strange game of politics in so in Tamil Nadu. J Jayalalitha is the chief minister of the state and controls a TV channel, Jaya TV. M Karunanidhi is her chief rival and controls Sun TV. Sun TV keeps showing news that portrays the government’s relief efforts in a bad light, and Jaya TV paints quite the opposite picture. Every disaster, after all, is an opportunity to score a few political brownie points. And the lives which have been lost? Well, shit happens.
amit varma, 11:48 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Despatches 5: Three boats and a bridge

Karaikal is a town which was once a French colony, and the policemen still wear kepis there. There is an inlet into the town from the sea, and a bridge over this inlet a kilometre in. It is about eight metres over the regular level of the water. Yet, when the tsunami came, the level of the water rose so much that as many as three boats crashed onto the bridge, from where two were later toppled. One is still stuck to the side of it.
amit varma, 11:46 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Despatches 4: The collector

At Parangipettai we notice a crowd gathered in a compound, littered with old clothes that people are walking on. We walk in, on a wall there are posters of dead people, kept there for identification. There is one with the faces of six dead babies, their heads bloated, their faces contorted in a bizarre manner. What mother could bear to see this?

Inside, speaking to community leaders, is the milk and dairy development minister of India, S Ramachandran. He is busy speaking to people, but we corner the man who seems to be in charge of things. He is the sub-collector here, and his name is Rajendra Ratnoo.

“We are planning for the long term,” Ratnoo tells us. “When the disaster happened we set up community kitchens and fed them, but we encouraged them after that to go back to their homes and cook, and they did just that. We don’t just want to take care of their short-term needs and let them go. We need to give them their livelihoods back.”

Ratnoo tells us that the government has just approved a package whereby every fisherman who lost a boat will get a new boat (each boat costs Rs one lakh). They will also be given life-support systems, and until they are self-sufficient again, they will be given support like free rations etc.

“What do you think of the role the NGOs are playing in this?” I ask.

“They are duplicating work,” he says. “First of all, they are getting too many clothes. They come and throw piles of clothes on the street and they feel like they have done a great deed. And the ones who don’t get clothes end up duplicating each other’s efforts. They should just come here and coordinate with us.” I am impressed by the man’s sincerity, but I know only too well that the governmental systems have been utterly ineffective all across the affected areas.

He ends on an interesting note. He tells us of a village called Sasniyarpettai, by the coast, where he conducted disaster managements courses two months ago for floods and cyclones. Villagers were assigned different responsibilities, and techniques like how to hang on to tree stumps were practised. When the tsunami struck, only 22 out of 3000 villagers died, a fantastic percentage for a village like that.

So even if forewarned is not always possible, fore-prepared can also save lives.
amit varma, 11:44 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Despatches 3: The big house

Periye Veedu is how Raja describes his house. Raja’s house is marked with water, a waterline of about six feet outside and five inside – you climb a step to go in – but the water clearly hit higher. A clock high on the wall is frozen at 8.40, and there are markings of water besides it. A shattered television set lies on the floor. There are many film posters on the wall, of Bhoomika and Vijay and Ramba. There is also a poster of a scene from nature with a large caption that says, “When fortune knocks, open the door.”

When misfortune knocked Raja was away at sea with his brother. Their wives were at home, with their kids, the 18-month-old Viswa and the 8-month-old Monsa. At sea, Raja did not notice much – tsunamis are not felt so prominently on the sea, and begin to rise noticably when they reach the shore. But when they returned to shore, their children were dead. And the clock had stopped.
amit varma, 11:41 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Despatches 2: The waterline

We reach a village called Pudupettai, near Parangipettai, and halt our car about a kilometre from the sea. We get down from our Qualis and walk towards the sea, and as we get closer, we notice an interesting thing. Every building on our way has permanent markings on the walls that indicate the level at which the water settled when it stopped gushing forward. It’s five feet high at the building near which we get down, and starts climbing with every house we pass, till it’s seven feet, eight feet, nine feet, a record of where things stood. This does not indicate the height of the waves, of course, many of which crashed much higher, but the level at which the water remained for a long time before receding.

As the years go by, no doubt, these walls will be washed clean, one by one. Will the memories go too?
amit varma, 11:36 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Despatches 1: Clothes and garbage

All the way from Chennai to Nagapattinum through Pondicherry, Cuddalore and Karaikal, I see clothes. Heaps of clothes strewn across the road like punctuation marks in a mad sentence. From a distance, many of them look much like Mumbai’s garbage dumps, splashes of colour on a dirty heap. In Mumbai, those splashes of colour are plastic bags; in Tamil Nadu, they are used clothes.

I had written in my previous post that sending clothes was futile and pointless, but people keep doing it anyway, and most of the relief trucks that we pass are packed with used clothes. Every local we speak to ridicules the idea of wearing those clothes, but they keep on coming in an unstoppable tide. Crises like this represent a good chance for city people to empty their cupboard of old and unwanted clothes, but are they shedding some kind of guilt as well? I wonder.

(Dilip D’Souza, my travelling companion, took pictures at many of the places I will write about in my despatches, but on an SLR that is not digital. Those pics will be uploaded in a few days’ time. Saransh Mehta, a software engineer who travelled with us, was invaluable for his translating skills and his good cheer.)
amit varma, 11:30 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Thursday, December 30, 2004


In a couple of hours time, I head for Cuddalore, with a team from Aid India, one of the hardest working aid organisations on the field. I don't think I'll be able to blog from there, but I will come back and write about it. Just one note before I go: don't donate any more clothes. Dilip mentioned it in a piece some time back, and Aid India mentioned it in a post on the SEA EAT blog, that old clothes, although people love to clear out their cupboards and donate them, generally go waste, and often lie strewn around disaster areas. Even poor people don't fancy old clothes, especially when they've never worn anything like it before. I spotted sweaters in a box of clothes that came into Aid India today, and that is just ridiculous.

I'll be back in 2005. Seems a year away.
amit varma, 3:52 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Headed South

In a few hours, I shall be on a flight to Chennai, and I intend to visit some of the affected areas from there, both to write and to help. One of my companions on this journey, already waiting for me there, is Dilip D'Souza, no stranger to catastrophe. I intend to blog as much as I can - indeed, I think it is important to do so - but connectivity, as you can imagine, is likely to be a problem. So in case you find me not posting for longer periods than usual, then, as they say on Dilip's favourite TV channel, rukawat ke liye khed hai.
amit varma, 11:29 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Discretion in donation

Finally, Ravikiran Rao is back, blogging again at The Examined Life. He brings up a point that many of us, caught up in the desire to do something, anything, to help, have overlooked: that it's not enough just to donate, but to make sure that we donate wisely.

As I had stressed before, much of what is given to the government is wasted because of shoddy implementation and corruption. Yes, even during a disaster, and perhaps especially so. But not all NGOs are efficient, and many of those that are tend to focus, naturally, on immediate short-term needs rather than long-term rehabilitation. Ravikiran says, and I couldn't agree more: "[W]ith the glare of publicity, I am sure there will be attention focused on the short term, but when our attention wavers, I am sure that the longer-term activities will get neglected."

He solicits advice on whom to donate to. If you have any ideas, do go over and comment on his post. As for me, at the moment, I don't have a clue. But I intend to edge closer to finding out.
amit varma, 11:20 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |


The refresh button has redeemed itself. A couple of days back I had blogged about how clicking that damn button was getting almost traumatic, with every refresh revealing a rise in the death toll. Well, refreshing that button feels a little better today. Take a look at the Amazon page for donating to the Red Cross. There's a figure on the right which indicates donations made so far. Seen it? Now refresh.

When I first came across this page, barely a few hours ago, it was $400,000. Since then it has soared, as more and more people have put their money where their hearts clearly are.

Now let's just hope the money goes where it's intended to. Trust an Indian to be worried about that.
amit varma, 11:11 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Misguided bravado

The Indian government has turned down foreign aid, saying that it has "adequate resources", and the UN has said, glumly, that it can't go where it is not wanted. This is a curious turn of events. There are two possible reasons for the Indian government's behaviour.

One, it believes that it has the situation covered, is on top of the relief work required, and that this work will be most efficient if handled centrally. There is some logic to this: other organisations, also feeling that foreign aid had to be directed in a planned manner, had called recently for the UN to take charge of all relief efforts. The Indian government clearly feels that it is best placed to do that job in India.

Two, the government is behaving with misguided patriotism, and adopting an attitude of "oh, we're self-sufficient, we don't need anybody's help". A similar attitude was in evidence a couple of years back when Bill Gates visited India to help in the struggle against AIDS, and the then-health minister, Shatrughan Sinha, denied that India had a problem with AIDS at all.

Of the two, I suspect that the second reason is the real cause for India's refusal of foreign aid, and the first one is the rationalisation of it. Still, for now, we must give the government the benefit of doubt. But its relief work has been far from adequate in the past, and the inadequacy of government infrastructure is indicated by the regular famines that take place despite a net excess of foodgrains. Its delivery systems are flawed, and at a time of such a crisis, with a possible epidemic looming, India should have gladly taken all the help it could get.

Update (December 30): The Indian government clarifies its stand. Pranab Mukherjee says that India is not turning down those who want to give foreign aid, merely "telling them to wait for some time. Right now, India has the necessary funds. Only after that is disbursed will we be willing to accept all and any aid that comes our way."

Sounds fair to me. Perhaps I was a bit harsh to rush to judgement.
amit varma, 4:56 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Almost a nuclear disaster

Terrible as the consequences of the tsumani were, they could have been worse. One of the areas hit by the giant waves was Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, where the Madras Atomic Power Station is located. Had that been damaged, the resultant radioactive leak could have led to far greater losses. Thankfully, we are now told that no damage was done to the plant. However, officials did admit that the possibility of a tsunami had not been taken into account when the plant was built, and there were no safety measures in place for that calamity. It is, thus, luck and not foresight that saved the residents of the state from an even greater tragedy.
amit varma, 1:11 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

The turning earth

How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How can we sleep when our beds are burning?
From Diesel and Dust by Midnight Oil.

Not only did the earthquake change the map of Asia, shifting Sumatra to the Southwest, but it even shifted the axis of the earth, according to experts. So what are you doing on New Year’s eve?
amit varma, 1:07 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Too many benevolent cooks

Aid agencies have started calling for the UN to take charge of the relief efforts, saying that the scale of the operations is so vast that central coordination is needed. The Guardian quoted Louis Michel, the EU commissioner responsible for humanitarian aid, as saying: “I am very anxious about the linkage between the emergency phase and the second phase of rehabilitation and reconstruction. If there is a gap between the two phases, I think it will have catastrophic consequences.”

There is, certainly, a large amount of waste that takes place in the process of giving relief, much of it by the government. Relief that is badly planned and administered can lead to disaster, as well – for more on this, read this essay.

Mani Shankar Aiyar, India’s petroleum minister, who has been touring Tamil Nadu looking after the relief operation there, said yesterday in a television interview that one of the first items on his list of priorities for aid was “heavy earth-moving equipment”. The debris needed to be cleared, he said. I wonder how much help he would have received in that regard by now. Meanwhile people in my neighbourhood are rushing out to donate old clothes, most of which, I am sure, will be wasted.
amit varma, 1:05 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

The power of wiki

Quite the most impressive online resource on the earthquake is the page devoted to it on Wikipedia. A wiki, for those not in the know, is a collaborative online site that allows anybody – and includes you – to contribute to it. You might expect it to be chaotic, but have a look at any of Wikipedia’s pages, and you will see a comprehensive, balanced and user-friendly source of information. While you’re at it, contrast the spontaneous order of the wiki with the centrally planned chaos of government machinery.
amit varma, 10:49 AM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

If you want to help ...

In case you want to contribute to the relief effort, the SEA-EAT blog is a useful site, with lots of information on "resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts". It's an excellent initiative by as many as 15 bloggers.

Also read this post by Saheli Datta listing out organisations you could donate to, and considering future modes of prevention.
amit varma, 1:29 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Monday, December 27, 2004

The rising

The refresh button scares me. Since yesterday, every time I've clicked on it, I've found that a few more hundred, perhaps a few more thousand, have died. Yesterday, this time, it was about 2000 "feared dead". Now it's 21,000 confirmed dead, with thousands more missing.

And it isn't over. The UN has issued a warning that epidemics might affect thousands more, with the infrastructure in all the affected areas having broken down badly. Getting clean drinking water is a huge problem in many of these places, and millions have been left homeless. That death toll, unfortunately, will keep rising.

In case you wish to help, The Acorn lists out relief agencies that are accepting donations.
amit varma, 5:29 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Memories of another tragedy

A terrible tragedy is unfolding across Asia, and it takes my mind back more than a decade, to a place I don’t much like to go. On September 30 1993, an earthquake hit Maharashtra, the state where I live in India, and killed more than 10,000 people. I was in my last year of college then, in Pune, far enough from the epicenter to hardly feel the tremors, but close enough to get there within a day if I so wanted. There was a reason to go – an organisation from my college took the initiative to collect a substantial amount in relief funds, but did not want to give it to any of the organisations calling for donations, as it was unsure the money would be used properly (rightly, as it turned out). It was decided that three or four guys would go themselves to the affected areas and figure out there how best to use the money. I was one of them.

We travelled with a team of doctors in a mobile hospital, a cross between a mini-bus and an ambulance. I won’t bore you with a chronicle of what happened there, but here are some interesting, and instructive, snippets.

Snippet one – At one point we were in a village where virtually no house was intact, and a quarter had been flattened. Only one ration-paani ki dukaan – provision store – was open, and the prices of all the commodities there had gone up by about a factor of five. There were no other provisions left in the village, and there were enough buyers. A friend and I asked the gentleman running it whether it wasn’t downright wrong to raise prices at such a time. “Kya kare, apna bhi khyaal rakhna padta hai,” he said (“I need to look after myself, you see”). As we were speaking to him, we saw a motorcade – three Ambassadors and a Jeep or a Gypsy – drive in from the distance. Many villagers went and gathered around it, and so did we, to see what was up. A minister stepped out of the car.

All the villagers started speaking at once, pointing out different kinds of problems, asking for help. He looked right through them, his eyes scanning the horizon. Then he strode purposefully towards a ruined building and his minions cleared the way. It was here that I realised that a couple of journalists were part of his entourage, and one photographer.

The minister, in spotless white starched kurta-pajama, went and stood besides the building, and asked one of his aides, “Yeh theek hai?” Is this ok? The aide said it was. He then instructed the photographer to take up position. The minister stood besides a suitably demolished structure, and an expression of empathy swept across his face. The photographer got into position. A boy entered the frame, and was shooed away. Click.

Then they all went away, as the villagers looked around, bewildered.

Had I seen this in a Bollywood film, where politicians are so often the villains, I would have thought, “there they go again, caricaturing those poor guys madly.” But this had just happened in front of me! The earthquake as an opportunity for profit, and public relations.

Snippet two – Not long after this, we were at a municipal office, where I bumped into the mayor of a rich industrial township on the outskirts of Pune. I happened to know him because his son was one of my classmates in college. So I went and started chatting with him. I assumed that he must be here for relief work, to do what he could, and I asked him how things were going, what he was doing. “We have adopted a village,” he boomed. “We have adopted a village and its people, and we shall rehabilitate them. We shall leave no stone unturned. It is our duty, you see.”

I was impressed. Civic duty and all that. The man had seemed to me, in the past, to be just another crude, amoral politician, and here he had adopted a village. “Wow,” I said, “that’s amazing. Are you going there soon? Can I come along?”

“No, I am heading back home now,” he announced, “but all arrangements have been made. We have adopted a village.”

He flounced around and left. A few minutes later I was told, by an official in the know, that the village he named was far from the epicenter, and nothing had happened there. Not a thing. It was all just a public relations gimmick.

Snippet three – The team of doctors I was with went to a local hospital, figuring it a good place to base themselves. They found that there were hardly any medicines there, even basic ones. In fact, the people at the hospital were convincing them to hand over the ones they had brought with them. Wisely, they refused, and went on the road.

Later, I got to know through officials that tons and tons of medicines were reaching the area, but were being diverted at supply centers and hospitals. A booming black market had developed in these medicines – they had come for free, so anything you could sell them for was profit. They would come into Latur (the district where much of the “action” was) and they would pan out from there across the country. Many of the hospitals just didn’t have any medicines, and the doctors I was with, who had come prepared with stocks of medicine, were far more useful than even they had imagined they would be.

In fact, it wasn’t just medicines that were being traded this way. Many countries donated all kinds of emergency material, from food supplies to blankets and so on. An enormous industry opened around all these relief materials. Rajiv Gandhi, India’s prime minister through the second half of the 80s, had once estimated that 85% of the funds allocated for rural development never reached their intended recepient. On the basis of what I saw and heard, I’d say that he probably underestimated the amount of wastage.

The government was hopeless, but there was reason for hope. Armies of social workers and NGOs swept into action when the earthquake happened, doing whatever little they could to help without thought of benefit to themselves. (In fact, a similar pattern took place during the Gujarat earthquake of 2001, when private organisations, run by people with passion and commitment instead of tenured government servants, did the bulk of the relief work.) The minister in the first snippet above was, in fact, typical of his breed; the shopkeeper wasn’t.

Interestingly, most of the Indian media did not mention the malpractices going on regarding the relief work. Sunday, that excellent, and now-defunct, news magazine edited by Vir Sanghvi reported it honestly and well, but there was little about it elsewhere that I noticed. (The Gujarat earthquake received better coverage, though.) Were the other journalists simply inured to this kind of callousness and corruption? Were they happy to just file the easiest story they could find, the ones fed to them by official sources, and meet their deadlines? Being a journalist myself today, I remind myself of Latur whenever I find myself getting cynical – and that is, sadly, all too often.

And now we have been struck again, and watching the news, reading about what is happening, I feel numb. When something like 9/11 happens, you can feel anger, and go out there and do something about it. When something like 9/30 or 12/26 happens, what the hell can you do? Who do you blame, who do you fight? What can you feel but despair? Those who are in the position to help out do all they can – and thankfully there are many such men and women across this country. But they know, too, that we’re helpless when it comes to battling nature. We might be on top of the food chain, but we’re as vulnerable as the rest of animalkind.

Update – The returning sea: Pankaj Poddar writes in with a touching Japanese fairy tale about a Tsunami. And in case you wondered if my experiences during the Latur earthquake were something unusual, read Dilip D’Souza on his experiences in disaster-hit areas.

Also, here are some bloggers across Asia who have been posting on this crisis: Jeff Ooi. Peter Tan. Rajan Rishyakaran. Nitin Pai. Links via Instapundit.
amit varma, 6:36 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink |