Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Floods and the Quake

Just last month two hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, the former particularly ferocious, hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, leaving widespread destruction and dislocation in their wakes (and exposing the utter incompetence of the W regency, but that's another story). The international response, from nations and people, was immediate and tremendous.

In the last week, the aftereffects of Tropical Storm Stan have ravaged parts of the southwestern, Pacific coastal and inland regions Central America. Although the storm landed as a Category 1 (Hurricane Katrina was category 5), the subsequent rains drenched El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala, causing widespread damage.

In Mexico, the village of Tapachula was divided into two by the floodwaters. El Salvador, which had only just experienced the effects of a volcano, has suffered more than 50 deaths from landslides. The storm triggered floods, mudslides and death in Guatemala. So far whole villages have been destroyed, and rescuers are now engaged in the process of trying to assess the human, infrastructure and financial costs. Two cities, Panabaj and Santiago Atitlán (whose morgue is pictured at left, BBC News), have suffered particularly severe destruction. Some 90 villages, however, remain inaccessible because of the mudslides, and the Guatemalan government fears that more than 1,400 people may be buried under the mire.

QuakeJust yesterday, a 7.6 earthquake struck Pakistan's Kashmir region, sending shock waves that could be felt throughout the Indian subcontinent, from Afghanistan to eastern India and China. Many thousands are thought to have died in Pakistan, particularly near the earthquake's epcenter, though two large apartment buildings in the capital also collapsed (map at left, BBC World), trapping and killing untold numbers of people. Initial reports are stating that hundreds of people have died in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, and millions of people will probably be homeless. The BBC News offers some eyewitness accounts here.

So far nations across the globe have offered aid and assistance; the US, the richest nation on earth, and a close ally of Pakistan, has promised $100,000. The EU is offering several million dollars, while China has already dispatched rescue supplies and allocated $2.6 million. Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, has made a special appeal for medicine, tents and blankets, and transportation equipment to assist in reaching isolated, mountainous regions affected by the quake.

DirectRelief International also is coordinating donations for the people and regions affected by the South Asian earthquake. I haven't seen specific information for donor organizations focusing on the regions hit by Tropical Storm Stan, but when I do I'll post them.

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