Tsunami affects home countries of several Lawrentians -dlh

Beth McHenry

With a current death toll of more than 155,000, the undersea earthquake of December 26 and the resulting tsunami is sure to be remembered as one of the worst natural disasters in history. However, for Lawrence students with family, friends, and homes in affected countries *********– primarily Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Somalia, and Malaysia ********– the tsunami and its effects are unusually personal.
As with any disaster, the news of the tsunami was unbelievable for many. Alvina Tan was shocked to hear that her home country, Malaysia, had experienced a tsunami. “No one would every imagine a tsunami in Malaysia; we are hardly exposed to any kind of natural disasters, except for floods and the occasional landslides. It wasn’t until I read in the newspapers and saw on CNN the magnitude of the earthquake/tsunami and its impact, that I realized that it was true.”
The devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami is monumental. Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that numbers in the news here in the United States are not accurately portraying the death tolls. Students estimate that technology and techniques used in censuses in many of the affected countries, such as India, are inaccurate. In another example, Tan relates that friends in Myanmar have said that Myanmar is not featured in the news as much as areas with less serious damage, perhaps for political reasons.
Of course, survivors of the tsunami are now faced with the aftermath of the disaster. Those who are experiencing the fallout describe images of sickening proportions. The family of Freya D’almeida, like others in Sri Lanka, has been working around the clock with relief efforts, however, there are simply not enough medical supplies, hospitals, money, or people to adequately care for the dead and dying.
D’almeida related that in Sri Lanka, the bodies of the dead are being burned; there is no longer enough space, time, or manpower to bury the corpses. Furthermore, the ecosystem could not accommodate the sheer numbers of such an undertaking. According to one BBC correspondent, “a stench hangs over Sri Lanka.” In some areas, says D’almeida, people step over bodies “like they are stones in the street.”
Furthermore, the rebuilding of most areas will be extremely difficult. D’almeida says that the most of the hotels in Sri Lanka were destroyed. Since Sri Lanka relies on its tourist trade, she adds that the country will not be the same for countless years.
For Lawrentians, the most difficult part of the past weeks has been nervously waiting for news of family and friends and the frustrating inability to help relief efforts in abroad. Tan says that her concern extended not only to her own family and friends, but also, naturally, to the families and friends of other students from areas hit by the tsunami.
Although D’almeida knew that her family was staying in a city that was not affected, she still spent several nervous hours attempting to get through the jammed phone lines to Sri Lanka.
Though we are all shocked and saddened by the scenes of destruction from the tsunami, there are some silver linings. Tan and D’almeida can say, with relief, that their families and friends are safe.
Finally, as in any disaster, people here and in affected areas have come together to help as best they can. Says Tan, “I am indeed very touched by the concern people have shown me since the incident, and even more touched that so many people all over the world have responded to this disaster, and are eager to help those affected.