The Tsunami: 10 Years Later
December 26, 2014 3:15 AM   Subscribe

Today is the 10th anniversary of the tsunami that changed life in South and South East Asia. Aceh bore the heaviest losses and the ASEAN remembers the toll of destruction. This event changed the way global agencies coordinate large scale disaster relief. Many lessons were learnt. Other regions which felt the impact hold memorial services too.
posted by infini (24 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Huge deal in Sweden because 543 Swedes lost their lives while on vacation in the region.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:50 AM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ten years? Somehow it feels much more recent. What a sobering reminder.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:41 AM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


i've seen pictures on yahoo where people have rebuilt right in the area that was inundated - seems that one lesson wasn't learnt
posted by pyramid termite at 5:44 AM on December 26, 2014


Maybe they couldn't afford anywhere else, pyramid termite?
posted by scruss at 5:48 AM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


the pictures i saw were of tourist development - and i always thought that the land right next to the ocean was the least affordable in such areas
posted by pyramid termite at 5:53 AM on December 26, 2014




I was in Bali with friends on vacation from teaching in Japan. Bali wasn't my plan, but my friend, when we couldn't agree on where to go, said we should do some research and get back together a week later and make a decision. I half assed it, looking up some places I'd like to see, nothing all that big. He had hotel names, flights, dates, everything worked out. We went to Bali, and the little island I had idly imagined visiting in Thailand was absolutely demolished by the tsunami.

The thing is, in Bali, we had absolutely no idea what had happened. The news was on, but I couldn't understand it. The images were incomprehensible. I thought a plane had crashed, for some reason. We only finally found out about the tsunami a day or so later. We immediately went to a net cafe to check our mail to find dozens of messages from panicked family members.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:56 AM on December 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


adamvasco that's the link in 'relief' - I didn't want to get into that stuff more explicitly but the Singapore paper had a print only special last weekend and there was really interesting stuff on the way development programs worked out. The agencies whose programs were designed around the way people lived and work were far more successful than those who brought completely new concepts in. Here's the whole feature which I found after hitting publish.

“Our study of over 67 tsunami-affected villages in Aceh found that aid projects that focused on re-establishing aspects of life... that existed before the tsunami were more successful and sustainable than projects that sought to introduce new concepts and ways of life, such as the boats for collective fishing,” says Dr Patrick Daly, principal investigator at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.

“People are very conservative and generally gravitate back towards their pre-disaster life.”

posted by infini at 6:12 AM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I heard this interview on the radio in my car a couple years ago and had to pull over to cry.
posted by bq at 6:33 AM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nate Berkus' story of losing his partner has always made me cry, as well.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:06 AM on December 26, 2014


2 years ago I took a portrait of a survivor of the tsunami in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka. I was walking along the beach before sunrise shooting and he was out in front of his little shanty on the beach. I asked if I could take his portrait and he said yes. Afterwards, he walked and talked with me as I wandered the beach. He was a stilt fisherman but, unable to support his family, he also now drove a tuk tuk, which is how he learned English from driving tourists. When we stopped at his home again to say goodbye on my way back to the hotel, I looked around at the beautiful scenery and said how lovely it must be to live here. And he said 'yes, except for tsunami.' Which is when I learned he was a survivor and had lost most of his family. I'll never forget that.
posted by chris24 at 7:33 AM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Jesus I'm leaking years.

.
posted by echocollate at 7:57 AM on December 26, 2014


A decade on, Thailand remembers the horrific Boxing Day tsunami

The last photograph of the lanterns being released is amazing.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:44 AM on December 26, 2014




I will never quite forget an Australian newspaper front page I saw online the day after the tsunami. It was a full page aerial photo of 3 or 4 tourists sunning themselves on the beach, while the locals were searching through tsunami debris around them, looking for bodies. The huge headline merely read "Ghouls."

This came up during a discussion in an online forum, just hours after the tsunami, someone said she already had airline tickets and hotel reservations for a vacation in Bali, no refunds, so she was going anyway, and leaving in just a few hours. I said the Indonesians have more important things to do than cater to your whims. Some people have no regard for anyone but themselves.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:53 AM on December 26, 2014


people have rebuilt right in the area that was inundated - seems that one lesson wasn't learnt

Well, these aren't "flood zones" per se. The chances of another tsunami of this scale are really, really low within the projected lifetime of a typical building. (This was generated by the second largest earthquake in recorded history, after all.) Look at New York after Sandy -- it isn't so much that rebuilding is unwarranted as it is that rebuilding be risk-cognizant and resilient. Placement of critical infrastructure (first responders, hospitals, etc.) might be due more consideration, for one thing, but if you own a plot of land with some small future tsunami risk, it probably makes more sense to rebuild in place and make better plans for lifesaving evacuation and so forth. It's not as simple as "this place got wet, move".
posted by dhartung at 10:06 AM on December 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well, these aren't "flood zones" per se. The chances of another tsunami of this scale are really, really low within the projected lifetime of a typical building.

But a tsunami is almost certain, within the lifetime of the buildings that follow it, in that same place.

I remember reading an article after the Japan tsunami, old stones were found up on the sides of hills marking the high water line in previous tsunamis. Some of the tsunamis were so ancient, no historical records exist, except that one stone. I recall reading about one village that was hit but survived mostly unscathed because there were almost no buildings in the tsunami zone. The local residents said, well of course, everybody knows you have to build uphill from the old stone marker.

Most cities decided to alleviate the inevitable tsunami risk by building massive seawalls. Every one of them was destroyed.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:00 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


someone said she already had airline tickets and hotel reservations for a vacation in Bali, no refunds, so she was going anyway, and leaving in just a few hours. I said the Indonesians have more important things to do than cater to your whims. Some people have no regard for anyone but themselves.

Would you cancel a trip to NYC if there'd been an earthquake in San Francisco?

How does it help the Balinese, who depend on foreign tourism, if tourists cancel their plans because of a horrible tragedy that happened thousands of kilometers away from their island? Cancelling a trip to Phuket, now that would've been understandable.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:02 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


charlie don't surf: "The local residents said, well of course, everybody knows you have to build uphill from the old stone marker."
I'll just leave this here (it's from a couple miles upriver from where I live) and note that builders gonna build.
posted by brokkr at 3:16 PM on December 26, 2014


Well now that you mention it, I think it was Phuket. Sorry, it has been a decade. Regardless, a civilized response to a monumental disaster like that, is not to call your travel agent to see if your reservations are still good and the hotel is still standing.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:03 PM on December 26, 2014


People were more willing to keep travelling to the US and UK when it was being wrecked by disaster (terrorist and natural), but when Asian countries are involved, suddenly OH NO MUST STOP AND CANCEL EVERYTHING DANGER DANGER. Some cities had cancellations for over a year even though they were not affected by the various disasters. It's annoying and frustrating and reeks of a double standard.
posted by divabat at 5:53 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Look, despite my misstatement of a Bali destination, this person wasn't going to somewhere in Asia miles away from the epicenter, they were going right to one of the worst hit areas. If you want to visit the ground zero of a monumental disaster as a tourist, you are taking resources away from disaster recovery, you are a burden on everyone. Thousands of people's homes were destroyed, they were desperate for food, water, and shelter, and amidst this, you expect waiters to deliver margaritas to you on the beach? Would you travel as a tourist to San Francisco on April 19, 1906?
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:40 PM on December 26, 2014


charlie don't surf: no, you are correct. Although not all of Phuket was devastated by the tsunami, the entire infrastructure on the island was affected and I imagine that the tourist you were referring to had an uncomfortable time on her holiday. Maybe she was motivated to pitch in and help clean up, who knows.

But I've seen the effects of tourist cancellation panic per divabat due to an insufficient understanding of geography and regional current events. Sometimes it's ironic, as when mass tourism cancelled in Bali after the bombings in 2002 and Thailand promoted itself as a safe tourist destination, even as the Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand was on the rise. Sometimes it's unfathomable as when a war starts in the Middle East and tourists flee a Muslim country halfway around the world.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:36 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ten years? Somehow it feels much more recent. What a sobering reminder.

It's strange how it feels both recent and ancient to me. Recent because the memories are so strong, yet timeless because the scale of it makes it a distinct event in history, like the eruption of Krakatoa or the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
posted by homunculus at 7:49 PM on December 26, 2014


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