Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Unreal Reality of Disaster

No food, no water, no electricity. You hear those words and you see the pictures on TV and the internet, but it always seems like something happening to someone else. Have you ever imagined being in that situation yourself?

I got a taste of it after Hurricane Katrina, partly from stories told to me by friends and family in Louisiana who lived it and partly from my own visit to New Orleans six weeks after the storm. It hit home for many Americans because a great American city was devastated and we saw months of TV coverage to continuously remind us. Less than a year later there were several books filling in the gaps in coverage and telling insider tales of what went on during that disaster.

But the earthquake in Haiti this week is so much bigger and it is geographically close enough to our country that we have an emotional connection to their plight.



Walk in their shoes for a minute and compare it to what we would be going through tonight.

There is no electricity, which means no running water, no sanitation, no lights. Hundreds of thousands of people whose homes were destroyed have to sleep on the dark streets; men, women, children, hungry, thirsty, scared of what they cannot see in the darkness.

They wake up tomorrow surviving insects, rodents, looters and the stench of dead bodies in the rubble, and face another day of nowhere to go and nothing to do but help others and try to find food.

There are no jobs right now because the entire infrastructure of the country is destroyed. Workplaces are devastated, getting to a workplace is impossible. Commerce ceases to exist for the foreseeable future. Without electricity, much of the banking industry is non-existent for now. The Haitian economy is probably more a cash-based than computer-based, but cash doesn’t even matter because there is nothing to buy and no one to buy it from.

Without electricity, rumors replace news reporting. Communication is a mess. Radio and TV is nearly nonexistent at the moment and even if internet and cell phone use is normally available in Haiti, it is not usable right now. In our country, that would mean no Facebook, Twitter or texting.

Humanitarian relief efforts begin but the sheer magnitude of devastation is overwhelming.

Have you ever seen the Weather Channel series called “It Could Happen Tomorrow”? It paints a picture of a natural disaster affecting large population centers in the United States. What is going on in Haiti could happen in San Francisco, as it has in the past, and Alaska, the state with the most big quakes in recorded history. But there have been earthquakes in seemingly unlikely places like Missouri, site of several 7.0 or greater earthquakes in 1811 and 1812. There have been magnitude 2 tremors within 30 miles of Washington DC in our lifetime, including some near Columbia, Maryland in the 1990s and a 1.8 magnitude tremor in Annandale, Virginia in 2008. Could you imaging a 7.0 earthquake in the Capital?

Picture this kind of devastation where you live? And if you know any prayers, say them tonight for the people of Haiti.

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Click here for a little bit of general information about Haiti.

1 comment:

Linda V. said...

A devastating tragedy... hard to imagine starting over with nothing.

I have watched the WC show, and find it informative. Its good to see and start creating a plan for any type of disaster. We actually have a plan if we are separated. Most likely, since we are both CERT members, we would be called into action to help Emergency Services, if not already on-site as Incident Command. My prayers are with the people of Haiti, with $$ soon to follow.