Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Monday, December 27, 2004
 
eWalls of Water, II: Recap, How To Help, Preventable? & Future Preparation and Prevention

This is a long blog post, but I want to keep it in one piece for the purposes of permalinking. Read it all by clicking on Permalink/Full Post, or jump to the part you're most interested in:

I. Recap
II.
How to Help
III.
Preventable?
IV.
Future Prevention & Preparation


Recap

The very bad news only gets worse. The earthquake has been uprated to a 9.0. Remember that each point on the Richter scale is actually ten times more powerful than the previous one, as it's logarithmic. So a 9.0 magnitude earthquake is more than 1000 times more powerful than a 5.9 earthquake--the rating of the last major earthquake I was in, one in which enough stuff fell down in LA for a truly dangerous situation. The death toll in Asia has topped 14,000 according to CNN. Even East Africa felt the tsunami (Reuters). When you factor in thousands still listed as "missing," communications equipment in poor shape, and the secondary effects of water-supply contaminations and hundreds of thousands of people made homeless, this count will definitely climb very steeply. The entire island of Sumatra appears to have moved southwest by 100 feet. Google News Search of "Tsunami." The Asia Society has a very useful summary of the news and relevant links. UPDATE: Some locals have started a blog about the Tsunami.
Remember, please click Permalink/Full Post for the rest of this entry.

(If you have trouble seeing the whole blogpost in IE, please try hitting F-11 twice.)
I. RecapII. How to HelpIII.Preventable?IV.Future Prevention & Preparation

How to Help

UPDATE: Reuben Abraham @ Zoo Station has
LOTS OF LINKS.

Matthew Yglesias
has been blogging about the quake and that's how I found Michele Catalano's Command Post collection of relief links. Sree & the South Asian Journalism Association are also trying to keep tabs on the situation, Not to steal anyone's thunder, but I'm just going to list relief information directly, and I will update this list as I find out more. I'm not an expert on the most efficient ways of sending aid, and I urge caution with wire transfer arrangements, as I cannot verify the information myself.

1) RED CROSS:You can donate money to the International Committee for the Red Cross's International Response Fund through RedCross.org. Americans can call 1-800-435-7669 in English or 1-800-257-7575 in Spanish, and Canadians can call 1-800-418-1111. The British Red Cross site is here. Americans can also mail a donation to American Red CrossDisaster Relief FundP.O. Box 37243Washington, D.C. 20013. (You can read lots of details about the IFRC's specific plans and work here.)
The website of the Indian Red Cross doesn't seem to have had a chance to update yet, but keep an eye on it.
From Eledolie, the Singapore Red Cross Society's appeal for funds, their online donation site, and their mailing address for checks from Singapore:
15 Penang Lane, Singapore 238486, Tel : (65) 6336 0269 Fax : (65) 6337 4360.
From The Command Post Forums: Thai Red Cross, Siam Commercial Bank - Red Cross Branch. Acct: 045-248899-3 Swift: SICROTHBK. Have your bank note that it's for Relief in Phuket. Please confirm this account information with your bank.
UPDATE: You can very easily give money to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief fund via Amazon, and as Amit Varma at India Uncut points out, there is something deeply satisfying about hitting refresh and watching the total go up every so often.


2)You can donate to India's Prime Minister's National Relief Fund by bank transfer or by faxing or mailing in credit card info, but unfortunately, not by web or by phone. The following three accounts are available for international money transfer:
U.S. $: A/C No. 000-03847-4 with HSBC BANK,USA, New York. ( SWIFT Code :- MRMD US 33 )
Pound Sterling: A/C No. 203253-80412368 with,BARCLAYS BANK PLC,
London.
( SWIFT Code :- BARCGB 22 )
EURO: A/C No. 4112222001 with CITI
BANK,Frankfurt. ( SWIFT Code :- CITI DE FF ) .

Please confirm these with your bank, however, before you use them! If you are in India, you can send checks & money orders in the name of “The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund” to the Prime Minister’s Office, South Block, New Delhi 110001 INDIA.

3)SEEDS India, which has a beautiful but very heavy website, is an organization devoted to disaster preparation and management. It has announced the following International Money Transfer Account:Mode of International Fund Transfer: Account Name: SEEDS Account Number: 52810017829 Bank: Standard Chartered Bank, M-1, South Extension Part-II, New Delhi, INDIA Swift Code: SCBLINBBDEL. Again, please confirm this information with your bank.

4) The United Nations relief effort will probably be coordinated by OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs. On their Reliefweb.net site I cannot yet find an appeal for donations, but I am sure one will be set up as was set up for the Iran earthquake last year.

5) If you're Canadian, you can make a donation to the Canadian Catholic Organization Development and Peace online, as they have announced they are mounting a relief effort.

6) Vasugi Ganeshanathan forwarded SAJA an announcement that the Sri Lanka Association of Greater Washington is creating a relief fund, and that checks payable to SLAGW can be sent to c/o ISTI, Inc., 1820 North Fort Myer Dr., Suite 600, Arlington, VA 22209. The email was written by Nihal Goonewardene, the association's president.

7) MercyCorps has an online donation form which allows you to specifically earmark funds for earthquake relief. You can also donate by phone 1 (888) 256-1900, or by mail: Mercy Corps,Dept W, PO Box 2669Portland OR 97208. UPDATE: Mercy Corps already has people working in the Aceh province of Indonesia, where over 40,000 people probably died.

8) Save the Children USA has created a specific relief fund for Children and families Affected by Earthquake and Tidal Waves in Southern Asia.

9) According to this ReliefWeb press release, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees will run U.N. relief efforts in Sri Lanka. You can choose your national UNHCR donation site from their global site, and right now on the American donation site you would probably want to specify Emergency Appeals. UNICEF has audio links about the disaster here, and you can make a general donation to them here.

10) CARE Australia has launched a relief effort, and it's already at work in Sri Lanka. Here's their donation site, and their online donation form has a space for comments. By phone (in Australia): 1800 020 046, and by mail: CARE Australia, Reply Paid 61843, Canberra ACT 2601.

11) Americares has launched a relief effort, and their online donation form (which promises to apply funds to this disaster as long as possible) is here. You can also mail them a check: AmeriCares Foundation, 88 Hamilton Ave., Stamford, CT 06902.

12) Oxfam America has launched relief efforts and is collecting money specifically for earthquake relief here. You can make a credit card donation by phone at 800-77-OXFAM, or mail a check payable to: Oxfam America, Attn: Donor Services Dept., 26 West Street Boston, MA 02111-1206. Oxfam UK's online donation form is here.

13) AID India is raising money online here, and or make out checks payable to AID, P.O. Box F
College Park, MD-20741, USA.

14) The Hindu, one of India's premier newspapers, has set up a relief fund that will accept online donations and mail donations. The online form takes credit cards, but in Rupees, so it's not clear to me how that would work with credit cards from other countries. "The Hindu Relief Fund," Kasturi Buildings , 859 Anna Salai , Chennai 600 002, INDIA. UPDATE: HR Mohan of The Hindu informs me that while they can only accept Rupees, credit card donations are automatically converted from the card holder's currency by the Visa/Mastercard centers.

15) People in India can send funds to the Chief Minister's Public Relief Fund of Tamil Nadu, one of the brutally hit Indian states: Chief Minister's Public Relief Fund, Finance Department, Secretariat, Chennai-600 009.

16) The truly amazing, Nobel-prize winning group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is dispatching volunteers to provide medical help. Here is their online donation page. Remember, disease is going to be a huge problem in the weeks and months to come, whatwith the groundwater polluted by saltwater, sewage, and rotting bodies.

17) NEW: As Manoj said in comments, Asha for Education, one of my favorite charities, has joined in the relief effort. This is great news because they are extremely efficient. While disaster relief isn't their usual business, their experience and contacts working with poor children in southern India will undoubtedly make helping those children now much faster. Here's their online donation form, and you can mail checks in US$ to Asha for Education. P.O. Box 322
New York, NY 10040-0322, with "Tsunami relief in the memo." . There are Asha volunteers blogging from the area, posting deeply compelling dispatches about their efforts.

18) NEW: Sarang emailed me about the relief efforts of GIVE World/Give India: here's their online donation form, US tax-paying donors please send cheques favouring "GIVE Foundation Inc." mentioning "Tsunami Relief" on the reverse, along with your full name, address, phone & email ID to:
Pawan Mehra, GIVE Foundation, Inc., 25 Agapanthus Street, Ladera Ranch, CA 92694. I hadn't heard of them before, but they appear to have an intriguing way of directly connecting donors to their extensive list of partner NGO's.

It seems trivial now, but I have to say that I'm really glad that a policy wonk like Matt, who rakes in a lot of regular readers, is willing to step outside his subject matter, be honest about his horror at this, and make a small plea for help. As far as I can tell he was the first big name on my blog roll to talk about it. Crooked Timber & Cyrus Farivar pointed people to the Red Cross. Cyrus Farivar has just sent me an immense list of agencies accepting donation posted by the New York Times. I'm very glad that John and Belle decided not to spend Christmas in the ravaged Phuket. Besides The Command Post entry cited above, I got some relief information from the Indian blogger Chanakya at Vichaar, and writer Jay Manifold. I got the MercyCorps link from Chhavi Sachdev. You can try checking their blogs for updates. The new locally written TsunamiHelp Blog is also a good source of links.

NEW: If you are looking for ways to rate these charities, you can look the American Institute for Philanthropy's report card, which is based on general fundraising efficiency; blogger Benjamin Rosenbaum has a good table of ratings.

Remember, please check back for updates to this list. Please email me if you have more information on ways to help, & leave the information in comments.

I. RecapII. How to HelpIII.Preventable?IV.Future Prevention & Preparation

Preventable?

There is a already lot of spitfire raging in the media and on the web about how preventable this immense loss of life could have been. I think it's far too soon to draw conclusions about direct culpability, but there was definitely an element of preventability here. There are questions about the International Coordination Group for the Tsunami Warning System in the Pacific of which India and Sri Lanka are not members, and for which, apparently, dealing with a non-Pacific earthquake was not in the plan: The Tsunami bulletin which the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center generated about an hour after the earthquake hit read,
"REVISED MAGNITUDE BASED ON ANALYSIS OF MANTLE WAVES.
THIS EARTHQUAKE IS LOCATED OUTSIDE THE PACIFIC. NO DESTRUCTIVE
TSUNAMI THREAT EXISTS FOR THE PACIFIC BASIN BASED ON HISTORICAL
EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI DATA.
THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF A TSUNAMI NEAR THE EPICENTER."

According to Thomas Maugh at the LA Times the Tsunami began hitting coastlines two hours after the earthquake. Earthquakes are registered fairly instantaneously and automatically around the world, and even if there wasn't enough previous Indian Ocean tsunami data to definitely predict the ensuing walls of water, such immense and rare seismic activity should have generated some kind of warning and reaction. Andrew Revkin's article in the New York Times closes with a shocking quote from a tsunami expert of Indian origin based in Manitoba: "There's no reason for a single individual to get killed in a tsunami," Dr. Murty said. "The waves are totally predictable. We have travel-time charts covering all of the Indian Ocean. From where this earthquake happened to hit, the travel time for waves to hit the tip of India was four hours. That's enough time for a warning." Whether the failure was in converting an earthquake signal into a tsunami warning, conveying that warning to national governments in South Asia, spreading the appropriate evacuation information from the national governments to the locals, or some combination of all three, remains to be seen. But clearly this was not simply an unavoidable natural catastrophe.

I. RecapII. How to HelpIII.Preventable?IV.Future Prevention & Preparation

Future Preparation and Prevention

Not simply unavoidable means we can do things better. Whatever old fashioned system of telephoning and following diplomatic protocol was or wasn't in place would probably never be completely efficient. Total efficiency is too much to ask for, but in this age of the internet and wide spread cell phone usage, a multitude of robust, noncentralized and low-cost geeky solutions immediately suggest themselves. As has been widely reported, the use of cell phones has been growing exponentially in countries like India. In areas without Industrial-nation-style infrastructure already in place, 21st century-style technology like solar cells and cell phones can actually be cheaper.

How complicated or expensive would it be to outfit village elders with a cell phone that calls them with an automatically generated message detailing disaster response instructions? A computer server running a script to read the USGS registry of quakes could, upon detecting, say, a magnitude 8+ quake, automatically email a Tsunami warning with a pre-determined evacuation plans to a text-to-voice programmer, which could in turn email them to a Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol server, which would then call the network of, say, several thousand coastal village elders and civic authorities and several hundred coastal radio DJs and read them the instructions. The original computer server could also page an international network of volunteer experts, waking them up and asking them to check on the data and be on call for the aforementioned village elders and civic authorities to call and confirm.

When you consider that many lives would have been saved in Bhopal had the population been told to seal their windows and cover their heads with wet cloth, or that the more common South and Southeast Asia disasters like typhoons are also kind of predictable, the wider uses of such a system become clear. Moreover, they have a great advantage over traditional broadcast based emergency warning systems--they aren't dependent on that radio or tv being on in the first place. Won't matter what you're doing, as long as your cell phone is on and in range. Of course, it wouldn't work completely unless all fishermen and sailors were outfitted with walkie talkies, which would be considerably more expensive, but this would have to help. Is someone already working on this? It almost sounds like a plausible open source project. What about Geekcorps, or ISTI?

How badly I wish I could go to the upcoming World Conference on Disaster Reduction and pick brains about these topics. In general we should all pay more attention to disaster preparation, both on a global scale, and locally: In February I wrote about preparing for danger for NYC24.org, and I've often mentioned Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disaster, a local Alameda County non-profit, staffed by my friend Scott, which helps other local non-profits prepare themselves and their clients. You can support such agencies, and you can also use their resources: make your household and car a GO KIT (pdf)--something which would be helpful if you are asked to evacuate because of a Tsunami or similar situation--and know how to shelter in place(pdf), which is helpful in the case of chemical spills like Bhopal.

I. RecapII. How to HelpIII.Preventable?IV.Future Prevention & Preparation


Thank you for thinking about safety and helping others. Take care, all! Remember, please check back for updates. Please email me if you have more information on ways to help, & leave the information in comments.

 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Yglesias:Tpmcafe
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Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
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Green Ink!
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Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
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Mark A. R. Kleiman
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Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
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InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

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Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


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