The earthquake

Dear Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India
Merry Christmas!
Early this morning, I woke up because I felt something. It was as if my bed was shaking mildly. To make sure I wasn’t dreaming this, I got up and walked around the room. I checked the time on my watch – 6:41 AM. Since I was now sure I was fully awake, I sat on the bed. There it was again. There was a definite tremor in my bed. It went on for another two minutes. Later that morning, I checked Google News for “earthquake bangalore” and it came up with nothing. When I checked the regular news sources, however, I found out about the Indonesia earthquake and the resulting damage.
All through the day, the death tolls kept rising. I expected casualties in Indonesia, but the deaths in India and Sri Lanka were a more unpleasant shock.
At times like these, I’m glad I’m an atheist. I’d find it very difficult to accept that a “God” would cause something like this.
I feel the need to rant about a few things:

a) The Indian government doing fuck all to give any warning to anyone that there was danger. Even at 700 km/hour waves, it was still hours before the tsunami hit Indian shores. That would’ve been enough to get a lot of people out of danger. The government arseholes now give the feeble excuse that they didn’t know what would happen. What bullshit! An 8.9 earthquake hits in the vicinity and you don’t think anything will happen? If not an evacuation, couldn’t they at least sound a general alarm to the eastern coast towns and cities? It would’ve moved several hundred fishermen out of the waters. It would’ve got people off the beaches. It would’ve saved a few lives that have now been snuffed out. Three hours and our government didn’t do anything.
Update: The US officials tried to warn our people, but couldn’t reach anyone. (Thanks Suresh!)
2) “News” services like CNN, who didn’t start paying serious attention till the numbers hit the thousands. When BBC was reporting 7000 dead, CNN was still stuck on 3000. What’s the matter, CNN? Too many reporters on XMas holiday?
3) Indian news sites like Rediff and – would it be too much for you to kill your fucking annoying pop-up advertisements for just one day so people could check on the loss of life without seeing some crappy credit card ad? Just once? And Times of India, we know you have no moral fibre at all, but seriously, did even one of your people with any sense of propriety look at the home page? Did even one of them see a photo of the devastation on your site immediately followed by “Hot December babes”? Could you not suspend the skin display for once so that it didn’t disgust your visitors? You sicken me!
Screenshot of ToI page
(Also see Metafilter discussion about this.)

32 thoughts to “The earthquake”

  1. I think you can’t forecast seismic catastrophes. And I am not sure the time lapse between the 8.9 Richter motha F***** and the Tsunamis hitting the coastal areas. If it were only a few hours, India should be a member of a Global Tsunami warning system, for us to do any 11th hour damage-control.
    Also, NDTV woke up to the need of reporting the calamity only around the afternoon. I wouldn’t blame CNN.

  2. A Worse Tsunami

    MadMan’s anger is justified. He blames official apathy as the cause for not being able to save hundreds of lives by raising alarms in advance. Which is true. Apathy yes, but more importantly, the attitude of chalta hai, which seems…

  3. Guardian Unlimited’s main headline, at the time of writing this, is “Tsunami death toll rises to 23,500”. Below that are two straps: “11,000 perish in Sri Lanka”. And “At least four Britons dead”.
    Excellent post, btw. Dilip D’Souza also unleashes a nice rant here.

  4. I think Indians are too lazy and casual for anything to shake them up.
    According to the recent news, Australia already dispatched tonnes of relief material, and Indian government is yet to even blab out about any relief than 1 lakh rs that will be paid god knows when.
    Moreover i think what they need is clean water and some blankets. And surely not a bank balance that they know will never exist

  5. I am trying to divert the attention to a different issue but when we are debating “India should be a member of a Global Tsunami warning system”, let us see what we are doing to our eco system. Utrrakhand governmnet is turning a deaf ear to warnings from ecologist/social forums/religious leaders and trying to open Badrinath /kedarnath for all around the year. As per ecologist and religious leaders, keeping those places closed for six months, gives the nature a rest from a lot of different types of pollution. But this secular government is adament on developing the state on the cost of destroying the eco-system. When will we learn to hear the mother nature. Although the signals are clear from her.

  6. Well… what do you think could have been done if the government would’ve sounded the alarm? In the absence of a functional crisis management strategy, countless departments within the government would’ve passed on the responsibility of handling evacuations to each other till the tsunamis hit the indian shores. On the other hand, the lack of drills to train people would’ve meant largescale panic in the cities… even those cities that were ultimately spared the destruction.
    About the media coverage, I have nothing to say… except that it sucked!
    Two groups that should’ve worked together to warn people… i.e. the government warning the people through the media… were caught napping… 100%!

  7. Tsunami shakes up the Govt.

    If there were warning systems in place, many lives could have been saved. But then it takes a disaster of this magnitutde to realize how far we are behind in terms of technology or even common sense. But now the…

  8. Sameer I think rather than accepting the fact that Indian system is overloaded with red-tapism and countless departments that pass-the-buck on, we need to realise that we aren’t as bad as we think we might be.
    If we couldn’t avoid such large scale destruction, we can surely help at the right time, with right things.
    India is sending divers and naval ships across as part of international community to Sri Lanka. What about our own people?

  9. Great post and it reminds me of radio stations here that will cover the news only if an American celebrety were to be stranded somewhere.

  10. Sumeet, we aren’t bad at things… in fact we’re downright ridiculous at some things! Crisis management is one such thing. Repeated calamities and disasters, natural or man-made, have pointed to the need for a fully functional crisis management system. But is there one? Well… one could argue that it exists. And it swings into action to co-ordinate relief and rescue after the tragedy has claimed its victims. The need is for far better co-ordination with various early warning systems and putting in place a well-drilled evacuation plan when the alarm bells start going off. And I cannot stress enough the “well-drilled” aspect of crisis management.

  11. Sameer, if even one life could have been spared by sounding an early alarm, it would’ve been worth something, don’t you think?

  12. Madman
    I agree with you.. Some of these news channels were pathetic in their coverage. Sun News was really the limits.. The anchor seemed almost thrilled to say that the number of people dead is around 1000 according to their estimates and not 500 as the government had said. I switched over to Jaya TV and this was even worse.. They were showing food packets being distributed and how the government has started helping people.
    I felt they were more bothered about making their parties look good / bad and not about actually helping the people

  13. Not only does Times of India feature hot babes right below a picture about the devastation caused by the tsunamis, it has images of balloons and streamers around its masthead.

  14. Tsunami Pictures and Plea to Donate

    Here are some pictures which will give you a better idea of the havoc created by Tsunami.
    If you can, please consider donation towards relief efforts. I found Amazon to be the easiest way to make a donation.

  15. So what?….a self confessed Libertarian now expects morality from others, and that too on his terms?

  16. a self confessed Libertarian now expects morality from others, and that too on his terms?
    Which part of being libertarian means abandoning all morality and regard for human life, Nilu?

  17. Nilu confuses morality with good taste and consideration.
    MadMan was sickened by the appalling lack of taste and consideration byt the websites. Was it immoral or moral? I think it was devoid of any moral judgement, i.e. amoral.
    Plus he did not ask for the stuff to be taken down or the site to be banned. So even if he thought it was immoral he was not trying to impose the morality on others. He simply registered his protest. Which is the libertarian way to do it.

  18. if even one life could have been spared by sounding an early alarm, it would’ve been worth something, don’t you think?
    I disagree. Examine what you mean by “worth”. An early warning system is not without cost. Rs. 125 crores according to this article.
    The govt of India would have to take the 125 crores from somewhere. It might save the one (or more lives), but the transfer may possibly be from an area which needed it more (hospitals etc) and might lead to a loss of life there.
    No easy solutions — I feel the early warning system was (and is) not necessary because there has been no history of tsunamis hitting India.
    Yes, this does go against the touchy feely notions that we need to redress stuff now. But I fear the bottomless pit of government spending.

  19. I don’t see how any warning could have been given even though the tsunami took a couple of hours to hit us. A tsunami travels very inconspicously. It’s not a 20-metre high wave travelling continuously for a thousand miles. if so, capsizing boats and sinking ships would have sounded the alarm.
    a tsunami picks up force only when it is too close to the shore.
    now given that there is almost no record of tsunamis in south asia, it is unrealistic to expect that the administration would have prepared for it, even after knowing that there was an earthquake of 9 richter scale.
    Like the American guy from the Pacific tsunami centre said “Even if we had managed to get through to the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, what would we say? That a disaster which has never occured in your area, is headed your way, and you should go on war footing and vacate millions of people??? He would have gone back to sleep, and if I was in his place, so would I.”

  20. Which part of being libertarian means abandoning all morality and regard for human life, Nilu?
    None, but the part where you rant about their lack of morality with a tone that suggests you are disgusted makes me wonder why you don’t appreciate Yazad’s question for me sometime ago(…..on commeting).
    My point was and is – you cannot(for want of a better word) as an individual accuse another of acting “immoral/amoral”, for you don’t get to decide what is and isn’t moral.

  21. How Madder can it get?

    This is maddeningly hilarious; I mean, the reactions to the recent devastation caused by the Tsunami. While some people try to find a connection between the Tsunami and the Kanchi Seer’s arrest, others are glad that they are atheists (because…

  22. Yazad, I agree with your views on Early Warning. With the way Indians handle such disasters its evident how India will invest 125 crores on early warning but still will lack the way evacuation needs to be done.
    And Nilu, about who decides if things are moral or immoral, i think lets trust Madman for his sanity in this case. Who in anycase says showing babes with death toll is moral? This is not something debatable but rather should be accpeted for what it feels to all.

  23. The waves of divine retribution

    One of the first thoughts that passed through my mind on hearing of the Tsunami was “more evidence that God does not exist.” Every disaster leading to a huge loss of life reinforces my atheism. Natural disasters, of course, are…

  24. MadMan, yes it would’ve been a great thing if someone could’ve been saved by some sort of a warning.
    I agree with Gaurav that a tsunami does not travel like a huge wall of water rushing towards the shore ready to crash down upon it. Its more like a huge tide rushing inland from the sea.

  25. Gaurav and Yazad,
    I agree that 125 Crores is a lot of money, and I wasn’t saying the government should’ve invested in an early warning system.
    However, I did say that when an earthquake of such magnitude hits, it isn’t entirely unexpected that a tsunami may follow. Somebody in the government should’ve been alert to this.
    Even if they weren’t, the tsunami hit Andaman and Nicobar first. After that, it took 90 minutes to hit the east coast. At least after it hit the islands, people could’ve been evacuated from the beaches. It would’ve saved lives. Could it have saved all lives? Probably not, but saving a few thousand lives is still worth it, don’t you think?

  26. MadMan, you’ve shifted goalposts. Your earlier comment you said “even if one life could have been spared” (emphasis yours!) now you talk of thousands.
    As the numbers change so will the meaning of “worth it”. I find more to agree with in your later comment (Jan 5)

  27. Why would the amount of people change the meaning of ‘worth it’? As the numbers change, rescuers continue in their strenuous quests to find a particular member of any family; whether they are able to save 100 people or only one-its still ‘worth it’. The fact that the death toll is increasing doesn’t in anyway change tha meaning of ‘worth it’.

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