Update 1: January 12, 2005
In the first of his dispatches from Thailand, Asia correspondent ROB MCKEOWN surveys the surreal contrasts of life after the tsunami.
In Khao Lak, a red and black bustier dangles half-torn from a blue plastic hanger in an empty teak bungalow. The room has been emptied of all furniture. Only bathroom pipes remain, torn and twisted in mad forms. Outside, a hammock swings gently.
Two weeks after the Indian Ocean tsunami hit coastal Thailand, contrasts and sights are striking. Tennis courts where tourists once played are being used as helicopter landing pads by the U.S. Army and relief groups. The Buddhist temples that dot the lush surrounds of Phuket, Khao Lak, Phang Nga, and Ranong have been pressed into use as temporary morgues. Wat Yaan Yaaw, among the most sacred temples in the region, was once a place where vacationing Thai would detour to make an offering. It now houses some 3,000 bodies recovered since rescue efforts began. Relatives who come here to identify the dead are allotted 38 minutes in the area the corpses are kept. The smell is almost unbearable.
And yet, not far off, life goes on as before. Tourists are visiting the limestone karst formations of Phang Nga Bay and Phi Phi Island, where the water is a brilliant blue-green. They canoe, snorkel, and splash around while nearby rescue divers search for the 3,500-plus people still listed as missing. Those they search for will probably never be found. Patong Beach, once a boisterous spot with beer bars spilling down the sand, is now oddly peaceful. With destroyed hotels looming in the background, a few dozen tourists swim in the now-calm Andaman Sea waters.
The initial rush of chaos has passed. City Hall, an elegant Colonial building with airy courtyards and green lawns, has served as the coordination center for embassies, families searching for loved ones, volunteers, and counseling since the tsunami struck December 26. Four days ago it was swollen with thousands of frantic locals, consuls making announcements, garbage piling up everywhere. Now, the only sign of the chaos is the hundreds of missing-person notices that line the walls. Sleeping babies, grinning honeymooners, diving instructors, entire families -- their photos have become a part of the landscape here. They paper walls from the hospitals to the airport.
This is the first full week that Thai schools have opened. In hard-hit Kamala, where two children and one teacher from the local school died, a Swedish-owned resort has opened its doors to the students until the ravaged school by the beach can be rebuilt. In Ban Kalim, though no one seems to have died, teachers are reporting that almost half of the children are too frightened of the water to come to school.
At Bangkok Phuket Hospital, thousands passed through in the past week, but only a handful of tsunami patients remain. Many are ready to go home, but fear leaving the area. All four members of the De Vries family, of Holland, were within eyesight of one another on Phi Phi Island when the waves struck. It was not until five days later that mother, father, and younger daughter, were re-united in this hospital. They held out hope that their elder daughter would join them. Three days ago they learned of her death. The delay had come from her Indonesian-Dutch features leading examiners to think she was Thai. Today, the three remaining De Vries will arrive at their home near Amsterdam.
Up the coast in Ranong the fishing village of Ban Had Say Kaew lies far from where TV cameras have been trained. No foreigners come here. Some eight villagers died and almost 200 boats were lost. Many fishermen now live in a temporary tent camp near the small wedge of beach from which they once set out every morning to fish. They have enough food and water and a temporary roof, and they say they are grateful. But they do not know when or where they will get new boats. The government has promised some money, but even if they are able to get it, it will be only a fraction of what they need. And even if their boats were whole, sales of local seafood have disappeared along with the tourists.
The devastation the tsunami wrought in Thailand was horrifying and complete. More than 5,300 died here; more than 3,500 are still missing. Scores were injured. But what is left now is in some ways more complex: an incomplete aftermath in which tens of thousands of lives, homes, boats, and livelihoods must be re-assembled.
Update 2: January 19, 2005
As children return to school in southern Thailand, psychological aftershocks threaten to do more harm than the tsunamis have. ROB MCKEOWN reports from Ban Kalim.
"Will the water come again?"
It's one of the first questions students ask each morning at the Ban Kalim School, along Patong Beach on Thailand's Phuket peninsula. Dressed in school "suits" -- beige shorts or skirts and blue shirts or, for kindergarteners, red shorts or skirts and white shirts -- they sit on a dirty linoleum floor stained a shade darker by the tidal waves. Their chairs, like their desks, books, and teaching supplies, were washed out to sea. A crane has piled shards of furniture in a corner of the schoolyard. All that remains of the dining hall and a supply room is crumbled concrete, broken glass, and dust. There's a heavy damp smell in the air.
"We would normally have 35 students today," says Areerat, a kindergarten teacher. None of her students lost their lives in the tsunami, but many have transferred to schools farther from the beach. She wears a Hawaiian-style shirt whose bright floral designs contrast with the concern in her dark eyes. "They are scared." She started the day with 21 students, but parents of five collected their kids shortly after the beginning of class. "They just don't feel safe being near the ocean. Everyone says the waves may come again and their parents are more scared than they are."
For children, families, and teachers, coping with the fear is in some ways a bigger problem than the physical devastation.
"When will the waves come again?"
It is a question that children throw out with innocence, curiosity, and fear. Kids, psychologists like Dr. Ngamwong of Bangkok Phuket Hospital say, mirror what their parents feel. Up the coast in Khao Lak and Phang Nga, where more than 4,000 died, some locals are still hiding in the jungle. Here in Kalim, most came down from higher ground after a few days. They did not return to much. Some 30 homes and dozens of boats, taxis, rickshaws, and businesses lay where they were smashed by the waves.
"I don't want to be near the ocean, either," Areerat says. "I like the jungle."
The teacher's home where she lived was swallowed by the first and second tidal waves. But the teachers escaped as the water reached waist height in the road. "We lost everything but our lives," says another teacher, Nawaporn, whose clothes, identity card, and books were all washed away with the second wave. He shows me a photo of a crane picking his blue motorbike from a pile of rubble.
While the children eat a lunch of chicken, rice, chili sauce, and broth--donated by a local mall--and a volunteer from UNICEF takes pictures outside, Areerat quietly stares at a tourist paddling out into the high tide. "Why are Westerners not as scared?" she asks. "It will probably be about two weeks before we have normal days again. There is just a lot of fear and nobody understands about the tsunami still. We are not like Westerners."
Pasted on the walls are pictures the kids have been drawing. Some are of elephants painted cheery shades of green and pink. Others depict enormous waves, tumbling homes, and parents holding children by the hand. One child has drawn her mother dressed as the Siamese queen and carrying her to safety in the hills.
People in Ban Kalim mention over and over how good it was that the water came on a Sunday. On that day, the children were not in school.
Update3: January 27, 2005
Of all those affected by the tsunamis, fishermen may have been hit the hardest. ROB MCKEOWN reports from the fishing village of Ban Nam Khem in southern Thailand.
Phraiwan Poomjan squats on what used to be the concrete floor of someone's wood-walled home, sketching with a stick in a pile of sand. Military officials are lecturing him and his fellow fishermen about government housing plans. His walnut-brown skin is set in stark relief against the shockingly white tee-shirt that he picked up from a pile of donated clothing a couple of days ago.
They sit in long meetings with government officials in crowded rooms or tents. They stand in endless lines in the sun for Styrofoam-packaged dishes of rice and vegetables. They trade whispered rumors of the prospects of cash arriving. The displaced residents of the fishing hamlet of Ban Nam Khem sleep in a dusty refugee camp several miles inland where donated tents, some made for camping and some that would be more appropriate for a circus or country fair, have been set up in a red and blue cluster. Everyone agrees it is far too hot. They wake by 6 a.m. and hitch rides to their ruined village.
Almost a month has gone by since the sea from which 80% of these villagers drew their livelihood rose up and destroyed most of their town. Some estimate nearly a thousand perished in Nam Khem -- out of roughly 3,000 residents -- although exact numbers are hard to come by, as many here have not registered with the government or are illegal immigrants.
Ban Nam Khem was hit so hard because of the village's exposed position along a thin strip of white sand and land reclaimed from the Andaman Sea. When the water started rushing in, Phraiwan and other fishermen sent their families running inland and tried to get their boats to safety. "We were on deck trying to get out to sea," Phraiwan recalls. "But we weren't in time and it toppled us over. I was washed inland almost 2 kilometers. The water was black, dirty, and scary. It carried me past there."
He points away from the sea to an area just beyond a toppled brick wall. There is nothing but mud, skinny palm trees, and a lone boat, bright orange, tossed far from the sea and stranded next to a house that, amazingly, didn't suffer any major damage.
As Phraiwan talks, three villagers stand behind him, listening and nodding. They are all muscular and tanned, and they are the first people I've met in the Khao Lak region (where well over 4,000 have died) who actually swam through the tidal waves. Not one of them seems to have even a cut on his arm, but their eyes -- dark, still, weighty -- tell stories.
Now that the foaming white and rushing brown waters of the tsunami have receded, fishermen are left in an especially tough position. Unlike the rich tourist hotels nearby, they have neither investors nor insurance. Their boats lie in ruin. Loan sharks by the dozen have begun to appear in the camps. Incredibly, no one has come to explain to the fishermen what a tsunami is, how one forms, why this one came, and if it could happen again. They surround foreigners to ask these questions. Every day rumors of more tidal waves fly.
"I don't even care about my home as much. It is more important that we all get boats. Without them we have nothing. It is our life," says Phraiwan when asked what he most needs. On this point the fishermen are unanimous. They used to fish for squid, sea bass, snapper, or whatever was biting, leaving at dusk and returning to sell on the docks in the ember-tinged light of dawn. Most boats employed up to 20 people, each of whom had a large family network depending on him directly. But no one here has been to sea since Christmas.
Phraiwan's was a typical Nam Khem fishing family. As the only college-educated child, he remained on land most of the time to handle business. His brother, Suksan, captained the ship, and his father, Sompong, accompanied him to sea. Their families, girlfriends, and even cousins depend on them for money. Right now all that remains of their boat is a small section of the hull, which resembles a broken wooden backbone.
Phraiwan's mother has just left the hospital after a three-week battle with a lung infection. She will move far up north; she's become frightened to live near the Andaman Sea. What remains of the rest of the family will stay in Ban Nam Khem. Phraiwan's girlfriend and the mother of his son, Wandee, lost her parents. In all, the Poomjan family lost five cousins to the tsunami. They've been paid $40 for each adult. The government says it will help rebuild their homes and give up to about $5,200 for their boats, but the fishermen say it will cost perhaps ten times that to rebuild a solid boat.
Ban Nam Khem citizens are not entirely confident that help will come in the end. They've already had some experience with the difference between what the government says it will do and what it can do. It was not until three days after the tsunami that workers came to help clean the devastated Nam Khem village -- this despite the fact that cleanup in the richer Phuket area, some three hours south, was already well under way. This left Phraiwan and Suksan on their own to remove corpses from mud, destroyed houses, trees, and toppled boats. While they could recognize neighbors or family for the first two days, by the third the corpses were swollen with gas, purple, and putrid. They describe all of this with a calm reflection.
Fishermen like those in Ban Nam Khem are perhaps the best example of why the form of the help tsunami victims receive is crucial. "We really don't care about the money for homes or for those who died. Everything that has happened is awful but we want to move on. It's been almost a month now and we don't need clothes or even food." says Suksan Poomjan. "We just want money to build a new boat and a boat to go and find the fish. It is our life. We can take care of everything after that."
Update 4: February 4, 2005
Amid catastrophe and personal grief, Thai locals willingly aid the tsunami relief effort. ROB MCKEOWN reports from the Phang Nga province in southern Thailand.
On the day I met Tipparat Jitkaew the Wat Lak Khen temple, once a quiet refuge, was pure chaos. The scent of incense was overpowered by the sulfurous smell of corpses that had been brought there. Tangerine-robed monks wandered barefoot amid hundreds of bodies that were swollen and the color of smoke, all of them pulled from the waters or found on beaches in the wake of the tsunami on December 26. In the surrounding Phang Nga province alone over 4,000 people had died.
Over the next few days, corpses by the dozen arrived in pick-up trucks. TV crews piled out of vans. Frantic tourists came in to look for loved ones lost in the tidal waves. All of them were met by locals like Tipparat, a 21-year-old Thai volunteer who goes by "Kay."
"Hi," Kay said simply to me. "Do you need anything?Is there something we could do?Let us get you a mask."
In Thailand, a country that prides itself on peace and calm, "the day the waters came" is now a part of the national consciousness. As with the events of September 11, 2001, people here remember where they were and what they were doing when they learned of the deadly swells. The days right after the tsunami hit were cloaked in fear, confusion, and pain as the scale of the tragedy became known.
"I was sitting in front of the television, watching the news and crying, " Kay remembers. "I was praying that nobody I know was affected by these tidal waves. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I should be there and I wanted to be there to help."
Thousands of locals have volunteered for the most difficult and draining work in the tsunami relief effort—helping identify victims, consoling families, aiding with DNA checks, moving bodies, digging for survivors, even exhuming more than a thousand corpses after an error in tagging. One man, a soft-spoken doctor from the Southern city of Surat Thani, drove six hours to a toppled fishing village called Ban Had Say Kaew. I met him at a tent camp as he was handing out cash donations to those who had lost families, homes, boats, and their livelihoods.
"In Buddhism, death is unpredictable and comes in a circle," Kay says. "We are born, we get sick, we live, but eventually we must die. It is the circle of life. We might all have a completely different life, but finally we have the same ending."
Update 5: February 24, 2005
The tsunami brought destruction to Phuket's Patong Beach, but in its wake is a beauty unseen for decades, reports ROB MCKEOWN.
In the first weeks after tidal waves swept across Patong Beach, locals spoke of almost nothing but the tragedy. From grocery shoppers in Ocean Plaza to residents out for an early morning drive, about 200 perished here in the December 26 tsunami. The destruction and reconstruction dominated conversations.
But now that cleanup efforts are underway and foreign survivors have gone home, there's a new and unexpected point of agreement: it has been decades since the beach looked so good.
"Patong looks beautiful, huh?" my soft-spoken driver, Dorn, said to me one morning as he wound his gold Honda down one of the towering cliffs that guard Patong Bay.
It was a thought I had been afraid to voice myself. What was once a clutter of tourist-trap beer bars and stands renting umbrellas and jet skis looked pristine. The sand was white and went on forever, catching the early morning sun in honeyed light and set in relief against the teal Andaman Sea. Jungle-clad headlands rose in all directions. Young Thai children sat at a distance from the water beneath coconut palms.
Locals are pleased with the return to beauty, but they are also quietly desperate for tourists to return. More than 80% of residents make a living from tourism. In this, the high season, the island's 35,000 hotel rooms would usually be nearly full. As it is, they're running at 10 to 15% occupancy.
But the devastation that is keeping the crowds away has created an opportunity for growth. The Thai government now plans to invest nearly $15 million in this resort town as a new model for oceanfront development. Some proposals being discussed: hiding all power cables and waterworks for "aesthetic appeal," banning all clubs and entertainment venues on the beach, and cutting back on the number of beach umbrellas for rent from 7,000 to 1,500. Beneath the remaining sea pines and palms a promenade will be installed and sculpture gardens and music plazas will be built. All this, it's hoped, will bring back tourists—not the rowdy masses of Patong's recent history, but a more refined crowd that will appreciate the newly clean beaches.
In the meantime the sand, turned over by the waves, is sugary-soft and looks cleaner than it has for decades. Where wooden chairs once crowded the beach, a pick-up soccer game now spreads out at sunset. It is a quiet, tenuous paradise.
February 23, 2005
- Former US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush Senior visit Indonesia as part of a tour of areas affected by December's tsunami. Clinton and Bush see Aceh damage (BBC).
- The three sons of a couple killed in Thailand during the tsunami disaster have received pictures of their parents' final moments Pictures show final moments of couple killed in tsunami
- 'Baby 81' Comes to America as Symbol of Hope. 4-month-old Abilass Jeyarajah appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" show with his parents to encourage people to continue to support tsunami victims (Reuters via Yahoo! News).
- "The women known as 'the blue eyes of Aceh' are no more." After the tsunami: the sad fate of Aceh's 'blue eyes' (Radio Netherlands).
February 23, 2005
- Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives rebuild, with a major focus on infrastructure for tourism, the lifeblood of the economy. Tsunami victims haltingly rebuild (Boston Globe).
- "'When it comes to helping people, politics is aside,' Bush said. 'I've enjoyed working with President Clinton.'" Bush, Clinton Tour Tsunami-Ravaged Areas (AP via Yahoo! News).
- On a popular Malaysian beach hit by the tsunami, endangered sea turtles hatch for the first time in over a decade. Tsunami-Hit Beach May Become Turtle Haven (AP via Yahoo! News).
- "The world's media may be turning its glare away from the tsunami reconstruction efforts, but, writes John Aglionby, there is still much to be done." A story half-told (Guardian).
February 18, 2005
- Archaeologists have begun underwater excavations of an ancient city and parts of a temple off the coast of Mahabalipuram, India. Tsunami Uncovers Ancient City in India (AP via Yahoo! News).
- An assessment of the damage to wildlife finds nature surprisingly resilient to the effects of the Asian tsunami. Sea and jungle life bounce back from the tsunami's battering (The Independent).
- Aid workers say, in the aftermath of the tsunami, the elderly have been overlooked in favor of the children. To be elderly is to be overlooked as India distributes tsunami relief (San Francisco Chronicle).
- Tsunami rebuilding bill outgrows world's gifts (The Guardian).
- In an effort to emphasize the enormous amount of rebuilding left to do, Clinton and George Bush Sr. plan a four-nation tour to keep world attention on the tsunami disaster. Clinton, Elder Bush to Fight Tsunami Donor Fatigue (Reuters via Yahoo! News).
February 16, 2005
- Up to 10,000 Aceh children seek parents, but UNICEF says the number of orphans in tsunami zone is lower than feared (MSNBC).
- Thousands of trees saved a village in India's Tamil Nadu state from the tsunami's waves. Tsunami villagers give thanks to trees (BBC).
Joy for Parents After Being Re-United with Tsunami Baby (Boston Globe).
February 14, 2005
- 'Baby 81,' claimed by as many as nine different families, has finally found his parents. DNA Test Confirms Parents of 'Baby 81' (AP via Yahoo! News).
- "Nam Khem is now a haunted place, echoing with the last moments of terror of the people who died here." The Tsunami's Horror Haunts a Thai Fishing Village (The New York Times, registration required).
- Indonesia has requested anti-tetanus vaccines for elephants helping in the massive post-tsunami clean-up. Tsunami elephants 'need help' (BBC).
February 11, 2005
- Marine geologists examine the undersea collision that resulted in the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. The undersea upheaval caused by tsunami quake (The Independent).
- The contents of cardboard boxes labeled "Aid for Tsunami Victims"—winter jackets, expired cans of salmon, stiletto shoes, winter tents, thong panties and even Viagra—have left Sri Lankans scratching their heads. Some Tsunami Aid Useless for Damaged Areas (AP via Yahoo! News).
- In Khao Lak, where half of its 5,000 people perished in the tsunami, survivors fear new waves and the ghosts of the lost. A Trip to a Haunted Thai Town (Business Week).
- U.S. Nearly Triples Tsunami Aid Pledge, to $950 Million (The New York Times, registration required).
February 9, 2005
- "'We're past the point where visual identification is possible,' said Edwin Huffine, an American forensic investigator who's helping to lead the effort. 'DNA will play a very prominent role in the identification process.'" Investigators turning to DNA to identify hundreds of tsunami victims (Knight Ridder Washington Bureau).
- Six weeks after the disaster, aid workers focus on rebuilding and returning people to their former homes. Aceh aid operation changes gear (BBC).
- The infant claimed by families torn apart by the Indian Ocean tsunamis arrived in the Sri Lankan capital for a DNA test that may help find his real parents. 'Baby 81' DNA tests under way (CNN).
- Joel Selanikio, international relief specialist, makes lists in an effort to streamline aid. Memo to Tsunami Relief Officials: Get Organized (The Washington Post, registration required).
February 7, 2005
- "Clinging to the wreckage of their wooden boat, the two Somali brothers had just enough time to wave goodbye before a crashing wave separated them forever." Somali Fisherman Survives After Tsunami (AP via Yahoo! News).
- For some endangered tribes, the tsunami's aftermath may prove more dangerous than the waves. Swept Into the World (The L.A. Times, registration required).
- U.N. officials say tsunami assistance is not being well spent. After the Tsunami the Rebuilding Starts (The Economist).
- The departure of the centerpiece of the American effort in Aceh signals the Indonesian government's readiness to commence reconstruction of the devastated province. Navy Carrier That Helped Tsunami Victims Leaves Aceh (The New York Times, registration required).
February 4, 2005
- Secretary General Kofi Annan has selected former President Bill Clinton to be a U.N. special envoy for countries affected by the tsunami in southern Asia. Bill Clinton Chosen to Be U.N. Envoy for Tsunami Recovery (The New York Times, registration required).
- "The tsunami was ruthlessly exact in its selection of victims: Most people either drowned or escaped unhurt," allowing health care workers to concentrate on preventing the spread of disease. Tsunami's Unpredictable Outcome: Few Injuries (The Washington Post, registration required).
- Sri Lanka's "Baby 81," claimed by many couples after December's tsunami, has been placed under police protection. Tsunami baby under police guard (BBC).
- "Somalia, with its feuding warlords, rugged landscape and absence of any kind of central authority, poses unique challenges as the world rallies to help African villages stricken by the same tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia." Delivering Tsunami Aid Not Easy in Somalia (AP via Yahoo! News).
February 2, 2005
- "'They were sitting in the forest when we saw them, and they just ran to us, without saying anything,' Inspector Shaukat Hussain told The Associated Press on Wednesday." Nine saved 38 days after tsunami (AP via CNN).
- "'Maybe DNA test was the only way out, but this proves the level of trauma people are having even after a month of the tsunami,' said Maleec Calyanaratne, the spokeswoman for Save the Children in Sri Lanka about the scene in Kalmunai." DNA Test Ordered in Tsunami 'Baby 81' Case (AP via Yahoo! News).
- Many Sri Lankan fishermen are not sure they can go back to the simple lives they and their families once led by the sea. If government planners have their way, many will not. Fishermen raise concerns on post-tsunami housing (The Boston Globe).
- Aid workers and refugees remain wary of the role the Indonesian military would play in guarding and perhaps supervising new relocation centers. Indonesians Wary of Relocation Centers (The Washington Post, registration required).
January 31, 2005
- A Maryland psychologist tends to the tsunami's emotional wounds. Healer in a Broken Land (The Washington Post, registration required).
- In the wake of disaster, child protection and family reunification prove daunting tasks. Tracking those separated by tsunamis (The Globe and Mail).
- Jakarta rejects Aceh rebels offer. Despite its rejection, the offer seems to indicate a new flexibility in the position of the rebels who previously refused to shift from their demand for outright independence (BBC).
- "In this remote, northeastern corner of Somalia, villagers have long believed the world will end when the sea runs dry and the ground shakes. When the tsunami struck on Dec. 26, many thought that day had come." Somalians Trying to Recover From Tsunami (AP via Yahoo! News).
- After disagreements among officials from 43 nations, the United Nations emerged Saturday as coordinator for a regional tsunami warning center. U.N. to Lead Wave Center (The New York Times, registration required).
January 28, 2005
- Delegates from the Indonesian government and rebel group Free Aceh Movement arrived in Helsinki on Thursday to meet with former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, who is mediating peace talks.
Indonesian government and Aceh rebels meet in Finland (AFP via Yahoo! News).
- The World Health Organization joins with affected countries to provide equipment and drugs to prevent outbreaks of dengue fever, malaria and other potentially fatal mosquito-borne diseases. Health Agency Warns of Fever After Tsunami (The New York Times, registration required).
- In Aceh province, a survivor who has joined the relief effort tells the BBC News website of his desperate search for his wife and daughter. An Aceh man's search for his family (BBC).
- "There are places in Sri Lanka, such as this one, where there is no brave talk yet of rebuilding." Signs of renewal scarce along Sri Lankan coast (San Francisco Chronicle).
- Tsunami Blogs Help Redefine News and Relief Effort (National Geographic).
January 26, 2005
- "Moments of silence were observed Wednesday as people around the Indian Ocean recalled the day one month ago when tsunami waves crashed ashore." Silent prayers for the dead as Asia marks one month on from the tsunami (Khaleej Times Online).
- Known simply as Baby No. 81, Sri Lanka's most celebrated tsunami orphan is claimed by many parents. For Tsunami Orphan, No Name but Many Parents (The New York Times, registration required).
- For Men of Seaside Village, Lonely and Unfamiliar Roles (The Washington Post, registration required).
January 25, 2005
- Scientists have found a silver lining to the devastation of the Indian Ocean tsunami. The Great Wave: Behind the tragedy, a boon for scientists (AFP via Yahoo! News).
- Nearly a month after the tragedy, relief efforts in Aceh province continue to be hampered by insufficient coordination. Tsunami Relief Effort Still Disorganized, Report Says (The Washington Post, registration required).
- Two of the world's biggest sources of international tourism will help promote tourism to Southeast Asia's tsunami-hit regions. Japan, China to Aim Tourists at Tsunami-Hit Asia (Reuters via Yahoo! News).
- Scandinavian Airlines System sent a $4 million bill to the governments of Denmark, Norway and Finland for its 10-day airlift of Nordic citizens from Thailand in the aftermath of the tsunami. SAS Sends $4M Tsunami Bill to 3 Nations (Forbes).
- "Efforts to lower trade barriers for tsunami-ravaged countries have triggered fierce opposition from American textile manufacturers and shrimpers unhappy at being asked to open their markets further to low-cost competition." Tsunami Aid Creates Trade Bind (The L.A. Times, registration required).
January 24, 2005
- After having emerged almost unscathed by the tsunami, the Moken sea gypsies find themselves painted as as heroes by the Thai news media. Survivors of Tsunami Live on Close Terms With Sea (The New York Times, registration required).
- Families well off before the tsunami celebrate one of Islam's most important holidays on charity. The Good Life, Washed Away (The Washington Post, registration required).
- Tourism ministers meet to discuss how to help the industry recover in countries affected by the tsunami. Asean seeks to revive tourism (BBC).
- "'In the future, it's going to be better. The most important thing to do is to try.'" Sumatra Merchants Who Don't Look Back (The L.A. Times, registration required).
January 21, 2005
- Nearly a month after the tsunami, huge numbers of bodies are still being found in Aceh province, a reminder that even the most basic condition for a return to normalcy is nowhere near. In Stench, Amid Ghosts, Seeking the Tsunami Dead (The New York Times, registration required).
- Engineering Clean Water in Indonesia. "Sometimes preventing disease requires breaking rocks in 90-degree heat" (The Washington Post, registration required).
- "The hardest loss of all for the tsunami victims is dignity," writes Philip Cornford in Banda Aceh. Mate Ie, where $3 can cause mayhem (The Sydney Morning Herald, registration required).
- Rebels in tsunami-devastated Aceh province accuse the government of abandoning an informal cease-fire. Rebels in Tsunami-Stricken Area Complain (AP via Yahoo! News).
January 20, 2005
- The admiral in charge of the American relief effort for regions hit by last month's tsunami expects to wind up the military effort by late February. U.S. Forces Winding Down Tsunami Relief Effort (The New York Times, registration required).
- "The tsunami damaged more than a village's fleet. It snapped men's trust in the blue waters on which they had built their families' lives." Sri Lankan Fishermen Lose a Longtime Friend (The L.A. Times, registration required).
- Nearly one month after the tsunami left thousands dead or missing in Thailand, about 150 local and foreign volunteers are working and living in Somporn Sintop's modest hotel-turned-relief-center for free. Hotel Turned Into Tsunami Rescue Center (AP via Yahoo! News).
- "I am so happy. This is like medicine for my heart," Hernini said. "Yesterday, I was crying and felt like nothing. Today, I've got my daughter." Daughter Found 3 Weeks After Tsunami(AP via Yahoo! News).
- Building upon the informal truce that took hold after the tsunami last month, Indonesian officials plan to reopen negotiations with separatist rebels in Aceh. Indonesia To Reopen Talks With Separatists (The Washington Post, registration required).
January 19, 2005
- "Relief organizations say they are bracing for the moment the news media drifts to other stories. If the past is a predictor, promises of aid will be delayed, diminished, or forgotten." Aid groups' next task: keeping world engaged (The Christian Science Monitor).
- Led by Hector Mendez, an unemployed rescuer from Mexico City, an intrepid group of men nicknamed Los Topos dedicate themselves to rescuing survivors and removing the dead that remain entombed in the tsunami debris. Ragtag team tackles effort's grimmest task (The Boston Globe).
- As business returns to Banda Aceh, a city hit hard by the tsunami, lines between giving assistance and taking advantage, crime and survival, are all being blurred. After Tsunami's Rampage, Looters' Market Is on a Roll (The New York Times, registration required).
- Evading Indonesian military patrols, Aceh rebels deliver supplies and provide aid to their fellow villagers. Aceh Rebels Describe Effort to Aid 'Our Own' (The Washington Post, registration required).
- The Indonesian Health Ministry reports that the December 26 earthquake and tsunami killed 166,320 people in Indonesia, jumping the regional death toll for the disaster to 212,611. Tsunami deaths soar past 212,000 (CNN).
January 18, 2005
- Members of India's untouchable caste allege discrimination in allocation of aid. Tsunami Opens Fault Lines in Old Caste System (The Washington Post, registration required).
- Is there a tsunami in your coffee cup?. Indian Ocean disaster could have impact on U.S. prices, availability (MSNBC).
- "Scattered around Pottuvil, 5,187 people are living in a dozen refugee camps. Their health is Dr. Sameem's responsibility." A Village Doctor Cares for Those the Sea Spared (The New York Times, registration required).
- At Camp 85, bright lights illuminate hundreds of tents. Indonesian troops patrol near a herd of cows. There is enough to eat and no disease outbreaks so far, but the mood is somber. Despair, Hope in Tsunami Survivors Camp (AP via Yahoo! News).
- "'I did not think that boat could be saved,' said Mohammed Yunis, a leader of the local fishing fleet. 'But it could be ready to go in a week.'" Fishing town works to salvage livelihood (The Seattle Times).
January 14, 2005
- Several thousand were here when the tsunami engulfed Phi Phi Island. Now, remnants of lives lie strewn across white sand beaches, in crystalline lagoons. On a Haunted Island, Talk of Rebuilding (The New York Times, registration required).
- "'She's the Meryl Streep of Sri Lanka, and women simply flock around her,' says Kumar Rupesinghe" of the Sri Lankan star who now dedicates herself to helping women rebuild their lives. Off-Screen Activist (The Washington Post, registration required).
- A senior Islamic leader warns foreign relief workers of a serious backlash from Muslims if they bring Christian proselytizing along with humanitarian help. Indonesia Muslims Warn Against Evangelism (AP via Yahoo! News).
- Tsunami survivors now face the danger of landmines picked up by the tsunami and deposited across whole villages. Tsunami awakens fears of mines. (BBC).
January 13, 2005
- "Until the tsunami arrived, Mr. Saiful was the caretaker of Banda Aceh's junior high school three. He was responsible for tidying up. But yesterday he found himself giving a class in religious education." Trickling back to a city's only school (The Guardian).
- The Asian Development Bank reports: nearly two million people could fall into poverty as a result of the tsunami. Tsunami Could Impoverish 2 Million (Reuters via The L.A. Times, registration required).
- Foreign Aid Workers Can Stay, Indonesian Official Says "The comments by Vice Governor Azwar Abubakar, the province's acting chief executive, came two days after national officials in Jakarta decided they wanted foreign forces out of the country by the end of March." (The Washington Post, registration required).
- "'I thank God. The tsunami took me away and then brought me back. If you think about it carefully not only did it almost kill me. It also saved my life,' Fahim says, philosophically." Amid catastrophe, Maldivians speak of good fortune (Haveeru Daily Online).
- Still centers of community, Buddhist temples offer facilities that other institutions cannot. Buddhist temples form the backbone of Thailand's tsunami relief efforts (Khaleej Times Online).
- A sudden crackdown on illegal immigrants, prompted by unfounded rumours in the local media of Burmese looters, has forced a group of Burmese high into the mountains, unable to claim aid or search for loved ones. Thailand's secret survivors (BBC).
January 12, 2005
- Meulaboh, the city nearest the earthquake's epicenter, is a cauldron of suffering that will require years of concentrated help: On Indonesia's West Coast, Those Who Kept Their Lives Cope With Losing Everything Else (The New York Times, registration required).
- Indonesia tightens Aceh controls Foreign troops helping the tsunami aid effort in Indonesia's Aceh province must leave by the end of March, the government in Jakarta has said (BBC).
- "'We were really lucky to be here... We were able to help.'" Rescue Team Back From Sri Lanka (The L.A. Times, registration required).
January 11, 2005
- "It was dusk on Dec. 26, and Ari was adrift in the Indian Ocean. 'I was not prepared to die,' the 21-year-old carpenter said." Rescued Tsunami Victim Thanks Allah (Yahoo! News).
- Along India's ravaged west coast. Fishing in Troubled Waters (The Times of India).
- Indonesia told aid workers helping tsunami victims in its worst-hit region Aceh on Tuesday not to venture beyond two large cities on Sumatra island because of possible attack by militants. Indonesia Restricts Aid Workers in Rebel Province (The New York Times, registration required).
- " 'We are scared of the sea now, mostly because we don't know when the water will come and strike us again,' Poleh said. 'But what can we do?We can't leave this place and go to the mainland. After all, we won't have anything to eat there.'" Ruined Island Looks to Rebuild (The L.A. Times, registration required).
- UN Says Tsunami Donors Moving with Record Speed (Reuters via Washington Post, registration required).
- " 'Many feel that sitting at a screen sweating over the design of handrail details for the next cute downtown boutique hotel just doesn't make sense when more than 150,000 people have lost their lives, more than five million people have been made homeless and whole towns have been swept away.' " Architects want to help. 'What can we do?' (The Guardian).