Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Scale of Disaster

I'm just exiting a week in the "geo-cave". Wow, what a disaster in Haiti. Prayers go out to the Haitian people. It's amazing how fragile 3rd world countries are on all fronts....financially, infrastructure, health, security, and socio-economically. A shaking of the ground brings all of their buildings crumbling down.

There's many interesting observations to be made. The most impacting on me is the scale of which disasters occur outside of the United States. The table below illustrates how much smaller on a death toll basis our most recent monumental events have been. The 2004 tsunami, in seconds, took 229,866 lives. Think of the impact that Hurricane Katrina had on our country and the death toll was 1836. Image 229,866 people losing their lives in a matter of seconds. It's hard to fathom. I find watching these foreign disasters on tv somehow does not have the same impact because it seems so foreign and far away. Katrina hit close to home for me (no pun intended). September 11 was not only "on our soil", but it had significant visual impact. In addition, it had major geopolitical and religious impact. I can recall the news coverage for the earthquake in China, but 69,197 people lost their lives. Think of the comparison to the Katrina death toll. Who knew that 146,000 people lost their lives in the 2008 Myanmar cyclone?? Not me. 146,000 How about the Pakistan/Kashmir quake...86,000. I don't think that I even remember that. The easy takeaway is that we are blessed to live in the United States. Our natural disasters don't have near the devastating impact. We also are a very generous people.

Who knew that a 6.5 scale earthquake occurred in Eureka, CA last week? Haiti was 7.0. The "0.5" wasn't the difference. It's two different worlds. Twenty two millions dollars of damage in Eureka. I don't even know where Eureka is.

The positives are that many countries are aggressively providing aid. On a "cool" note, I thought that the fundraising of $10 million dollars for Haiti via text messaging was a great use of modern technology. Finally, text messaging does something significant!!

The days ahead for Haiti will be the most challenging. Infection and violence will be the hurdles to overcome. Where do you start on a project like that?

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