Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Today is Christmas Day and I am on my way home from Kuala Lumpur.

Christmas is a special day for many. It does not matter if you celebrate the day in a biblical way or not, the festive mood is quite inescapable. Simple decoration can be seen everywhere to remind you of the day.

It is the same in KL.
Perhaps you may have forgotten: In 2004, thousands of people had their last Christmas day in many parts of Asia. On the day after Christmas that year, a massive undersea earthquake occured just off the coast of Indonesia at a few minutes before 8 a.m. local time. At a magnitude of 9.3, the quake set off a deadly tsunami that took about 230,000 lives on the coastal areas from Somalia on the east African coast to Sumatra in Southeast Asia.

Nearer to home, I watched in horror how the deadly waves swept and wrecked lives and buildings along the Phuket coastline. More than 17,000 people were either killed, injured or missing in that disaster. Half of those died were foreigners.

Today, life in Phuket has very much returned to normalcy. Buildings and hotels are up again and tourists have also come back. For those who have lost their loved ones, healing will take a much longer time.

There would have been enough time to save many lives if a tsunami warning system was in place. When the 2004 catastrophe struck, the only warning was the sight of a giant wave heading towards the helpless victims.

Unlike the Pacific Ocean, which has a Hawaii-based Pacific Ocean Warning Centre, there was no effective warning system for the Indian Ocean. The disaster was a wake up call for an urgent need to set up a similar warning system.

An Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System was subsequently set up in stages and the entire system was completed in Jun 2006.

In Jul 2005, tourists were evacuated from Patong beach on Phuket by a newly installed tsunami-warning system in response to an earthquake off Indonesia. The warning was later downgraded as the quake had not triggered a tidal wave. I believe the people in Phuket did not think that the warning was frivolous after what they have experienced in 2004.

The Indian Ocean Warning System consists of 25 seismographic stations relaying information to 26 national tsunami information centers. For it to work effectively, good coordination between governments is essential. So, it remains to be seen if the new system can help to prevent a repeat of the 2004 disaster.

I wrote a letter to Santa (yes, I did) in which
I made a wish. Although it was only a gesture, I gave it a thought.

I could have asked for all the nice stuff that I have always wanted. I could have also asked that the recession goes away soon. Instead, I decided that I wanted the world to be a peaceful place to live in. I told Santa that I knew he was not real but nonetheless thanked him (and his impersonators) for bringing so much joy and laughter to the children around the world.

I wish you a Merry Christmas too!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: