Posts from December 26, 2004

The tsunami

The tsunami

: The Independent has a helpful if horrifying country-by-country report on the impact of the earthquake and destruction. Here’s a map from The Age in Australia.

: The Age asks readers to send in their stories and this comes from an Australian near Phuket:

We came to Koh Tao on a two week holiday to relax in the sun……


I was standing on the beach about 30 meters from the shoreline at a dive shop when I heard raised voices and looked around. The deck chairs that were lining the beach were floating toward me. It was a bit confusing at first as nobody had any idea what was going on. There was no loud noise or wind, just all of a sudden the sea had risen a good 10 meters.

Then the wave sucked out away from the shore a few hundred meters, exposing the coral reef that I had dived on a few days earlier. That’s when people really realised something was terribly wrong. All of a sudden all the dive instructors and staff of the nearby restaraunt ran down the beach to see if anyone was pulled out, only to find themselves faced with a surging ocean at least 15 meters high. At this point I was standing on a small cement wall at the top of the beach and watched as they scrambled up the beach and up the steep hillside on the edge of the bay.

When the second wave came in it simply tore apart the wooden buildings that sat at the top of the beach, the water came up to my knees and very neally took me off the wall. When the second wave sucked out, everyone who could bolted for the slopes on the sides of the bay.

The third and probably largest wave came surging forward and simply ripped apart the cement buildings like they were made of balsa wood. I saw a friend of mine scramble onto a roof about 5 meters from me as the water reached its peak – only to hear a loud crack and see the roof lurch badly. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the entire roof – with my friend on top, floated to the side and was sucked out into the bay and out of sight.

It just seemed so impossible, 10 minutes earlier we had been sitting down on the beach drinking a coffee, and now the entire beach had been ripped apart and my friend and all the buildings were simply gone.

The waves continued for a good hour after, gradually getting smaller only to reveal the complete devastation left behind. There was complete confusion as people were running around trying to find each other – or simply sitting in the wreckage with vacant looks on their faces. Later I found out that my friend had been rescued by boat with a mild concussion and lacerations from all the wreckage in the water and is at this moment in Phuket hospital….

: The dramatic first-person account of a Washington Post reporter who swam through the tsunami off Sri Lanka:

I was a quarter way around the island when I heard my brother shouting at me, “Come back! Come back! There’s something strange happening with the sea.” He was swimming behind me, but closer to the shore.

I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. All seemed peaceful….

Then I noticed that the water around me was rising, climbing up the rock walls of the island with astonishing speed. The vast circle of golden sand around Weligama Bay was disappearing rapidly, and the water had reached the level of the coastal road, fringed with palm trees….

Instead of the ark, I grabbed a wooden catamaran that the local people used as a fishing boat. My brother jumped on the boat next to me. We bobbed up and down on the catamaran as the water rushed past us into the village beyond the road.

After a few minutes, the water stopped rising, and I felt it was safe to swim to the shore. What I did not realize was that the floodwaters would recede as quickly and dramatically as they had risen.

All of a sudden, I found myself being swept out to sea with startling speed. Although I am a fairly strong swimmer, I was unable to withstand the current. The fishing boats around me had been torn from their moorings, and were bobbing up and down furiously.

: The science of a tsunami:

Secular Britain

Secular Britain

: A new survey finds most Britons don’t believe in God. Compare with Americans here.

To say that Britain is rapidly becoming a godless country would be too strong, but a YouGov survey provides overwhelming evidence that the British are now a largely irreligious people.

Only a minority believe that God exists and almost everyone acknowledges that Britain is becoming an increasingly secular society.

There is little or no evidence of active hostility towards either religious people or religious beliefs.

Instead, the national mood appears to be one of benign indifference. Most people give the impression of regarding religion almost as a consumer good, one to be consumed by those who happen to have a taste for it.

Now I’m sure some of the folks who argued with me over religion will see this as a sure sign of the path down which we’re headed, now that we’ve happy-holidazed ourselves, a sure sign of a worldwide war against religion. I don’t. America still thinks of itself as a religious nation (though a heckuva lot more people say they’re religious than go to services; a heckuva lot more people belong to churches than go to services in many places). And I note in this story a strong tolerance of religion by the nonreligious; in the recent discussion here, the assumption by many — wrong, I believe — is that the secular are hostile to the religous. Live an let live — eternally or not — that’s the attitude I see.

Air America Morning Sedition notes

Air America Morning Sedition notes

: I’ll be back on Air America’s Morning Sedition Monday at 8:30 ET. Here are my notes, which I’ll try to share in case you all have words of wisdom (on the jump):


Meet the Press jumps the shark

Meet the Press jumps the shark

: I was appalled this morning to hear Tim Russert interviewing — if you can call an exchange of meaningless pap and platitudes an interview — with TV quack shrink Dr. Phil. They traded baseless generalizations about “the family” for way too long.

Add this to the Meet the Press sin of having Jerry Falwell and Al Sharpton on a few weeks ago to talk religion.

Who the hell is booking this show? Meet the Press has been the smartest show on TV. They can get anyone they want. They used to try a little harder to find someone smart.

Now their guests are as random as an elevator ride.

For shame.

: James Wolcott seconds the motion:

What’s next, Suzi Orman laying out Social Security privatization for us between teeth bleachings?

I’m not sure what which was worse, Dr. Phil’s thimble-deep patriarchal profundities or the sage nods with which they were received by Untiny Tim.

Tragedy in south Asia

Tragedy in south Asia

: A horrendous earthquake and tsunami:

The world’s biggest earthquake in 40 years hit south Asia Sunday, unleashing a tsunami that crashed into Sri Lanka and India and swamped tourist isles in Thailand and the Maldives, killing more than 6,300 people.

A wall of water up to 30 feet high triggered by the 8.9 magnitude underwater earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra caused death, chaos and devastation.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in our country before,” Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said.

: Bangkok blogger Ron Morris has amazing updates [via Jeff Ooi]. See these photos (12)

: Here’s a Dutch blog that appears to be made up entirely of Google news alerts; this is the page on quakes.

: Glenn Reynolds has more links. Command Post’s reports here.