Saturday, January 01, 2005



Some first hand reports from the devastation in Sumatra are beginning to come in.

From one account, we learn this:

The destruction in Lhoknga, about 10 miles south of Banda Aceh, illustrates the power of the quake and tsunami along the west coast.

Nearly every building was obliterated, leaving only the foundations and rubble. At a military post in the village, only six of the 300 soldiers survived. In all, only about 200 of the 1,000 residents survived.

The US military has been helicoptering in supplies. Some of what they have seen is being reported:

"There is nothing left to speak of at these coastal areas," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Vorce, a pilot from San Diego, California. The tsunami left a swath of destruction as deep as two miles inland, with trees mowed down like grass and the only evidence of buildings in many communities the bare foundations, pilots said.

Many residents were camped out on high ground, either afraid to return to the seacoast or having nothing to return to.

The town of Meuloboh, where some 50,000 people had once lived, was about 80 percent destroyed, Faletti estimated.

The saddest of all pictures I have seen of the destruction came from Sumatra. It is a very graphic picture, of a mass of tangled and smashed wood and beach things washed up to shore by a damaged hotel. It's not until you look closely that you realize that the flotsum washed up is filled with twisted and ruined human bodies. (You can see this picture here - it is disturbing. I didn't post directly on the blog with good reason. It's also a pretty large file.)

So why am I telling you all this? Who knows how many people are dead. Millions are without homes now, hiding in the hills, or whereever, with lack of food, water, sanitation. It could be your mother, your brother, your grandfather sitting on the beach, weeping, not knowing what to do next, how to put the pieces of their lives back together.

Do not forget them.


Politics of Human Misery

A couple of editorials running about people using the disaster to make political hay:

Odious tsunami politics and IT'S ABOUT THE TRAGEDY

When you sit down to dinner today, watching the sports, sitting in your comfortable rooms, think about those standing in line for dried noodles and rice handouts, where basic things like food and water and how to keep one's waste from making people sick all the while they are in deepest grief. The new year which looks comfortable for you is one earthquake or flood or fire away from being in similar situations.

It is sad when people use these things as stepping stones, right or left, as ways of beating up one's enemy or gaining political clout.

May this new year see all of us finding ways of bridging the walls we make and learning how we are part of an extended human family, each with our own value, worthy of life and hope and a reasonable tomorrow. In our struggles to help shape our world in the way we think it ought to go, may we never forget that it is real people who are affected by the choices we make.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


Contemplating the Unimaginable

The scale of death in the Tsunami has reached the level of incomprehensibility for most of us. The number count is more than we can visualize. It shatters our assumptions of safety and ability, and reminds us of how frail we are and how easily life can be snuffed out.

Peggy Noonan has written a good piece on this, that I recommend. In it she says:
Of all the things I've heard said of the great horror, nothing seemed to me to sum it up as well as a woman chatting with a man as he cut her hair in New York. The TV was on, CNN. They stopped and watched the latest video of surging waves crashing through a hotel. The man sighed and shook his head. "Life is terrible," he said. The woman said, "Oh it's beautiful, beautiful, but full of pain."

How to deal with this?

How we long to blame
when hurt,
how we long to kill
the very thing
which stole our joy,
our lives,
our security,
and yet,
how does one take revenge
on the shaking earth,
or sue the wall of water
that crashed down
in its destruction?

Source: Walking with Job (exerpt)

It is one of mankind's oldest problems. Things happen. Tragedy exists.

We have two roads here, one dark and one light. We can wallow in the darkness. I have seen people saying, it's Australia's fault! It's the Bush Administration's fault. They set a nuclear device off to cause the earthquake. It's global warming. I have seen people on the right and left accuse each other of using the response for political gain, countries refusing aid from nations they hated, rebels who would let their people die than let the legitimate government work. Others have said don't send any aid to the tsunami victims because they are (choose your poison here) moslem, buddist, hindu, hate us,anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Israeli, they'll just use the money to make the fat cats richer and none of it will reach the poor, they'll use the money to fight against us. All this ill will breaks my heart at a time we should be seeing our brothers and sisters washed up on those beaches, laid out cold and broken on the streets. That road is so dark, I could never walk it and hold my head up again.

Or we can choose the path that is light, that understands we are all together here on spaceship earth, that what hurts one of us hurts us all, that the way to break chains of evil is not with more evil but by doing good. And even if our enemy chooses to still be our enemy, we will not be twisted by their darkness.

As we are facing a new year, with all it's frightening potential, let us for a moment remember our common humanity with all the people on the earth, those whom we love, those whom we dislike, and those who hate us, and know that we are small and frail and short of life. We can live it by walking the paths of hate and seeing misery in our wake, or choose the paths of light, and maybe leave the world a bit better because we loved.

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)

If you want to help, please check out my list of agencies that are helping the tsunami victims. If you know other good groups, please let me know and I will add them to the list.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Help the Victims!

I have set up a faq that has the lists of places you can go to for information or to help the victims of the tsunami.

It's a simple page with the relief organizations, blogs and news sites that I have found for those who want to help.

I have also included a link on my sideboard to get the list later.

Please help.



More Places that are aiming to help the Tsunami Victims


SPRING LAKE, Mich., Dec. 28, 2004 – As the magnitude of this weekend’s earthquake in Indonesia and surrounding countries becomes clearer, International Aid has announced plans to send an initial shipment of $3 million in medical and relief supplies to the region. These supplies will provide relief to 10,000 displaced families.

To go to their website, click here

Orthodox Church in America's Office of Humanitarian Aid


Arlene Kallaur



PO Box 675
Syosset, NY 11791

516-922-0550, ext. 126


International Orthodox Christian Charities

Donations for IOCC’s “Asia Disaster Response” maybe sent to IOCC, P.O. Box 630225, Baltimore, MD 21263-0225. Donations may also be made online at or by calling toll-free 1-877-803-IOCC (4622).


Another Blog to help

Fr. Leo Michael is a native of Bangalore and spent many years working as a missionary and priest in and around Chennai. He helped to build an orphanage which has been devastated by the recent tsunami. Fr. Leo is now Rector of St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Springdale, AR. He can be contacted at frleo - at -

He has set up a blog for those who might want to help:


Tragedy Redux

One of my pet sayings is that there is so much tragedy in the world, that even if no one ever did an evil thing to anyone, there would still be plenty to grieve over. This week has showed us that in plenty.

But people do evil things. And sometimes, we don't really understand why. If you'd been following the tragic death of Bobby Jo Stinnet, you might find this article interesting. I didn't know several facts about the case, and this piece explores some of the depths of evil that people, for whatever reason will sink to:

Back in the spring as Bobbi Jo excitedly shared the news that she was pregnant with Lisa, Montgomery announced to her own husband, Kevin Montgomery, and to her own friends and neighbors, that she was pregnant. She would give birth, she told them, sometime around the end of December—using the general information provided to her by Stinnett. I wonder if Montgomery thought about the irony of Goodson killing Simpson a year earlier—in December?

Read it all here.


Some Useful Sites for Tsunami Information

This site has a lot of information. Covers an international spectrum of news and aid requests.
This is aimed more at helping Indian victims, and has lists of Indian agencies, and also ways that people in the US can help.

A Wiki page has been set up, but it's just getting started:

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Each loss a human tragedy

The numbers they are bandying about as the death count rises are mind numbing.
The Drudge Report is talking a possiblity of 60,000 plus.

Some recent figures:


    More than 18,000 bodies have been recovered from government controlled territory and around 2,000 more from rebel Tamil areas.

    An estimated one million people have been left homeless. A naval ship anchored off Galle was sunk.


    The country has suffered at least 4,000 deaths. On the 572 scattered Nicobar and Andaman islands, entire tribes of stone-age people are feared wiped out. The jungle-covered islands were rocked by a second quake yesterday.


    Around 19,000 are confirmed dead but the final figure could up to 25,000.

    Corpses were recovered from tree-tops and 1,500 were buried in a mass grave.


    The 1,200 tiny palm-fringed holiday islands have so far reported 52 dead with 70 others missing. The dead include two Britons — a man and a woman. Six islands have been evacuated while others remain cut off.


    The official toll is 870 but is expected to top 1,000 — up to a third of them foreigners.

    Authorities said 130 of the deaths were in Phuket, a resort popular with Brits.

    Beach hotels were swept away. There were chaotic scenes at Phuket airport as bandaged survivors struggled to get on flights.


    There were officially 90 deaths, although it is thought the secretive government is withholding the true figure.


    The East African country is 4,000 miles from the quake but entire coastal towns and villages were swept away. The confirmed death toll is 100.


    There are 65 dead, mostly elderly women and children, and about 100 missing.

    Many are fishermen from the resorts of Penang and Langkawi. At least 220 have been injured.

Bangladesh has reported only two deaths despite a history of severe flooding.

Other places struck by waves included Kenya, Mauritius, Reunion and The Seychelles.
Several people are missing in these places.

(source: Online Sun)

And yet, even though the numbers numb us, turning the tragedy into a count game, easier in some ways to deal with, each loss is someone's tragedy:

The buzz of grim conversation in the darkened morgue was broken by a man's shriek as a small body was lowered onto a bed. "My son, my king," wailed Venkatesh, hugging the limp, shrouded bundle.
Thousands of miles away in Indonesia, farmer Yusya Yusman aimlessly searched the beaches for his two children lost in Sunday's tsunami. "My life is over," he said without emotion.
On the day disaster struck, Malaysian Rosita Wan, 30, recalled watching in horror as her 5-year-old son was gulped by the sea while he swam near the shore at Penang.
"I could only watch helplessly while I heard my son screaming for help. Then he was underwater and I never saw him again," she said with a sob.
(source: Washington Insider)
Woman Crying

Each person who died - someone's son. Someone's mother. Someone's friend. Rich, poor, Moslem, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist - each loss hurts. Each loss is a real tragedy.

Remember the faces you see in the news. These aren't TV dramas. This is grief and shock and hurt as it really looks, as it really is.

Each of these cries out for those of us who are their fellows here on earth to reach out and help.

This is what YOU can do:


Stay informed. ReliefWeb has a page dedicated to what's happening, and includes press releases from agencies that are in the field. Cidi is also a good clearing house, as is USAID

Reach into your pocket if you can.

Spread the word.

Check out some of these, if you don't know who to contact (this list includes live web page links):

Action Against Hunger
247 West 37th Street
New York, NY 10018

ADRA International
Asia Quake Fund
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
800-424-ADRA (2372)

Air Serv International
6583 Merchant Place, Suite 100
Warrenton, VA 20187

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc.
JDC-South Asia Tsunami Relief
P.O. Box 321
847A Second Avenue
New York, New York 10017

American Jewish World Service
45 W. 36th St., 10th Fl.
New York, NY 10018

88 Hamilton Ave
Stamford, CT 06902

Baptist World Aid
Asia Tidal Waves
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
703 790 8980

B'nai B'rith International
B'nai B'rith Disaster Relief Fund
2020 K. Street NW
7th Floor
Washington, DC 20006

Brother's Brother Foundation
1200 Galveston Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15233

151 Ellis Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30303

Catholic Relief Services
209 West Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Christian Children's Fund
Child Alert Fund
PO Box 26484
Richmond, Virginia - 23261-6484

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC)
South Asia Earthquake
2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE
Grand Rapids, MI, 49560

Church World Service
PO Box 968
Elkhart, IN 46515

Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane
Santa Barbara, CA 93117

Food for the Hungry, Inc.
Food for the Hungry
Asia Quake Relief
1224 E. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Gospel for Asia

International Aid

17011 W. Hickory
Spring Lake, MI 49456

International Medical Corps
Tsunami Emergency Response
1919 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 300
Santa Monica, CA 90404-1950

International Relief Teams
Asia Earthquake/Floods
3547 Camino Del Rio South, Suite C
San Diego, CA 92108

International Rescue Committee
PO Box 5058
Hagerstown, MD 21741-9874
877-REFUGEE or 733-8433

Latter-Day Saint Charities
Welfare Services Emergency Response
50 East North Temple Street, Room 701
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84150-6800

LMS World Relief and Human Care
P.O. Box 66861
St. Louis, MO 63166-9810

Lutheran World Relief

South Asia Tsunami
700 Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21230

MAP International
P.O. Box 215000
Brunswick, GA 31521

Mercy Corps
Southeast Asia Earthquake
Dept. W
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208-2669

Mission to the World
P.O. Box 116284
Atlanta, GA 30368-628

Operation USA
8320 Melrose Ave. #200
Los Angeles, CA 90069

Oxfam America
Asian Earthquake Fund
PO Box 1211
Albert Lea, MN 56007-1211

Plan USA
Asia Disaster
155 Plan Way
Warwick, RI 02886

Project Concern International
Asia Tsunamis Press List
5151 Murphy Canyon Road Suite 320
San Diego, CA 92123

Project HOPE
Asia Tsunami Response
255 Carter Hall Lane
Millwood, VA 22646

Samaritan's Purse:
P.O. Box 3000
Boone, NC 28607
Phone (828) 262-1980
Fax (828) 266-1053

SAWSO (Salvation Army World Service Office)
South Asia Relief Fund
615 Slaters Lane
Alexandria, VA, 22313

Save the Children USA
54 Wilton Road
Westport, CT 06880

Stop Hunger Now
SE Asia crisis
2501 Clark Ave, Suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27607

US Fund for UNICEF
General Emergency Fund
333 E. 38th Street
New York, NY 10016

World Concern
Asia Earthquake and Tsunami
19303 Fremont Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98133

World Emergency Relief
2270-D Camino Vida Roble
Carlsbad, CA 92009

World Vision
P.O. Box 70288
Tacoma, WA 98481-0288


More Places to Help

(Thanks, Lettie, for the tip!)

The following US-based aid agencies are accepting contributions for assistance. They are members of InterAction, a coalition of relief, development and refugee assistance agencies:

Adventist Development and Relief Agency Earthquake Relief - India 12501 Old Columbia Pike Silver Spring, MD 20904 1-800-424-ADRA

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee India Earthquake Relief 711 Third Avenue, 10th Floor New York, NY 10017 212-885-0832

American Jewish World Service 989 Avenue of the Americas, 10th Floor New York, NY 10018 1-800-889-7146

B'nai B'rith International Disaster Relief - India Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund 1640 Rhode Island Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036 202-857-6533

CARE 151 Ellis St., NE Atlanta, GA 30303 1-800-521-CARE

Catholic Relief Services P.O. Box 17090 Baltimore, MD., 21203-7090 1-800-736-3467

Christian Children's Fund India Earthquake PO Box 26484 Richmond, VA 23261 1-800-SPONSOR

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee 2850 Kalamazoo SE Grand Rapids, MI 49560 1-800-55-CRWRC

Church World Service 475 Riverside Drive New York, NY 10115-0050 212-870-2167

Concern Worldwide 104 East 40th Street, Room 903 New York, NY 10016 212-557-8000

Direct Relief International 27 South La Patera Lane Santa Barbara, CA 93117 805-964-4767

Doctors Without Borders P.O. Box 2247 New York, NY, 10116-2247 1-888-392-0392

Food for the Hungry 7729 E. Greenway Road Scottsdale, AZ 85260 1-800-2-HUNGER

Lutheran World Relief P.O. Box 17061 Baltimore, MD 21298-9832 1-800-LWR-LWR2

MAP International Emergency Relief Fund PO Box 215000 Brunswick, GA 31521 1-800-225-8550

Northwest Medical Teams International P.O. Box 10 Portland Oregon 97207 1-800-959-4325 Contact: Carrie Gess

Operation USA mark check "India" 8320 Melrose Avenue, Ste. 200 Los Angles, CA 90069 1-800-678-7255

Oxfam America India Earthquake Response 26 West Street Boston, MA 02111-1206 1-800-77-OXFAM

Salvation Army World Service Office Mark donations "India Earthquake" 615 Slaters Lane Alexandria, VA 22314 703-684-5528

United Methodist Committee on Relief 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330 New York, NY 10115 1-800-554-8583

US Fund for UNICEF 333 East 38th Street New York, NY 10016 1-800-FOR-KIDS

United Way International 701 North Fairfax Street Alexandria, VA 22314 703-519-0092

World Concern 19303 Fremont Avenue North Seattle, WA 98133 (800) 755-5022

World Relief, Department 3 P.O. Box WRC Wheaton, IL 60189 1-800-535-5433

World Vision P.O. Box 70200 Tacoma, WA 98481 1-888-56-CHILD

Source: BBC


40,000 and Rising

The death toll from epic tidal waves that rocked 11 countries rose to 40,000 people after Sri Lanka and Indonesia significantly increased their confirmed deaths.

Medical supplies, food aid and water purification systems poured into the region, part of what the UN said would be the biggest relief effort the world has ever seen.

Rescuers struggled to reach remote locations where thousands more were likely killed by the deadliest tsunami in 120 years. Bodies, many of them children, filled beaches and choked hospital morgues, raising fears of disease across the region.

Sri Lanka raised its death toll past 18,700. In Indonesia, the country closest to Sunday's 9.0 magnitude quake that sent walls of water crashing into coastlines thousands of miles away, the count rose to 15,000, a number the vice president said could rise further.

"Thousands of victims cannot be reached in some isolated and remote areas," said Purnomo Sidik, the national disaster director.

Some 4,400 died in India and 1,000 perished in Thailand. The Red Cross said malaria and cholera could add to the toll.

Desperate residents on Indonesia's Sumatra Island - 100 miles from the quake's epicentre - looted stores. "There is no help, it is each person for themselves here," district official Tengku Zulkarnain said.

The disaster could be the costliest in history, with "many billions of dollars" of damage, said UN Under-secretary Jan Egeland, who is in charge of emergency relief coordination. Hundreds of thousands lost all they owned, he said.

In Galle, Sri Lanka, officials used a loudspeaker on a fire engine to tell residents to place bodies on the road for collection.

Muslim families used cooking utensils and even their bare hands to dig graves. Hindus in India, abandoning their tradition of burning bodies, held mass burials. Soldiers and volunteers in Indonesia combed through destroyed houses to try to find survivors - or bodies. The toll in Thailand included at least 700 foreign tourists.

Source: This is London

Monday, December 27, 2004


Helping the Victims of the Indonesian Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Places you can give donations or learn how you can help. These are groups that have announced plans to help the earthquake victims. As people come back from the holiday and get organized, I am sure the call for help will get even more responses, but here are some places asking for help as they help others NOW.


Care USA

Mercy Corps

Save the Children

Center for International Disaster has a list of agencies involved and some good info on what and how to donate


The Dead are Many, But Each Has a Story

From the Sydney Morning Herald

The tragedy was epic in scale. Philip Cornford and Connie Levett trace it from its first rumblings beneath the sea.

It was a tranquil Sunday morning, a Full Moon Day for Buddhists, Boxing Day for Christians. Along the coastlines of three countries which arc around the Bay of Bengal, fishermen and villagers went about their chores in a balmy sun cooled by sea breezes. The seas were calm and gave no indication that in the ocean deep, a colossal force was surging towards the shores.

For the vast majority of victims, there was no warning of the catastrophe that was to kill at least 22,000 people in India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, Kenya, Somalia and the Seychelles. It would leave a million displaced.

The force that could not be stopped was a tsunami, a tidal wave or surge, and it was going out in every direction at a speed of about 800kmh, a deadly ripple of destruction triggered by an earthquake 40 kilometres below the seabed. At 9.0 on the Richter scale, revised from 8.9 yesterday, it was the fifth largest recorded since 1900. It was followed by multiple quakes along fault lines in the Earth's crust known as the Rim of Fire.

Fight for survival ...a man is swept away as the tsunami pours through the grounds
of a Phuket hotel. A report said his body was later found a kilometre away.
Photo: Hellmut Issels

On the Indian shore, 1000 kilometres west of the epicentre, Brajita Poulose, 45, was strolling along Marina Beach near Chennai with her husband, two sons and four other relatives. Fishermen hauled in nets, young men played cricket, vendors shouted their wares.

"Behind me, suddenly, we saw a huge wave coming at us," Mrs Poulose said. A wave 10 metres high, now moving at 100kmh, overwhelmed them. Her husband, one son and four relatives were drowned, among at least 5697 dead in India.

To the east, an Australian, Edward Shields, was on board his yacht moored off Patong Beach on the Thai resort island of Phuket.

"We had no warning whatsoever," he said. "There was no actual wave that you could see come in from the sea. The whole sea level of the bay dropped dramatically and then rose to twice its [previous] height just as fast, and then this water surged straight inland."

The dead here numbered at least 800, including as many as four Australians. At least 5000 were injured.

To the west, on the island of Sri Lanka, disaster struck beneath a faultlessly clear blue sky. It came deceptively to the village of Dehiwaha, where fishermen had finished the morning's work and were taking it easy.

"All of a sudden, the water from the sea rose up close to our houses. Then it went out again," said J. W. Kanti. It went out 1000 metres, scraping the seabed clean."

"The stones looked like elephants," Emil Chandradase said.

Then the sea came back and destroyed the village. Even so, fortune blessed the people of Dehiwaha, for none of them was killed. But along the island's coast, more than 10,000 died and 1 million were left homeless.

The only victims to have any warning were on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra. Its northern province of Aceh is only 160 kilometres from the epicentre of the earthquake. In the capital, Banda Aceh, the earthquake shockwaves collapsed high-rise buildings. Thousands ran into the street panicking. Then the earth stopped heaving. They didn't know it at the time, but death was coming from the sea in a 10-metre-high wave. An estimated 4500 were killed, thousands more lost their homes.

Many of the dead were the young and old, drowned in a torrent so fierce it churned along huge rocks, logs and the remnants of homes felled in the original shock.

In Banda Aceh, more than 1000 homes were destroyed. The death toll is expected to rise. So bad is the destruction that many missing people are buried beneath wreckage. Others are lost in swamps and rivers not yet searched.

In all the countries hit, most of the victims were poor villagers who struggled for an existence, and when the deadly waters receded they left behind a landscape in which their poverty was sadly evident, crushed huts and their sparse contents: a tin plate, a battered cooking pot, a plastic cup, worn bedclothes, crude furniture, bundles of rags some called clothes. Among the destruction, there was little to attract looters, for life had brought these hardy people little of value, except themselves and their families. And for so many, their loved ones were gone, too.

Some of the victims heard the tsunami coming but many survivor accounts tell of two distinct phases. First the sea seemed to rush out, and then it reversed and came in again, the sea level rising so quickly it could not be outrun.

"We saw it sucked out, and it seemed to go on and on," said Les Broadman, 56, from Cronulla, who was strolling along Patong Beach on Phuket Island with his wife, Dianne, 53. "Then all of a sudden, it reversed and the boats started to come back in. My wife said, 'This is bad', and we ran."

They got 20 metres before the water caught them. Mr Broadman clung to a pole. A car and a utility were swept past him. Mrs Broadman, 53, was smashed to the ground. "A car came down on her, then the next wave took it off her and she popped up," her husband said. They found sanctuary on a balcony.

An Austrian, Andreas Grugl, his wife, Brigit, 39, and son, Sebastian, 10, were on the ground floor of a Phuket hotel when waves burst in on them. They ran but were blocked by a locked door. The force of the water broke the door open.

"I held my son with my hand and we were slithered onto the street and then I lost my son," he said. "I felt I was crashed against a wall, a sofa crashed on me, then a refrigerator. That was the one thing I could stand on. I looked around me and I saw nobody. There were no people. I was alone." His wife and son were drowned.

Jonathan Delaney, 13, from Dublin, was trapped in a room with water rising to his neck, pinning him against the ceiling.

A South African woman was in the same predicament. It was pitch black but they found a window and swam out.

At Marina Beach near Chennai, India, Dev Anand was one of the young men playing cricket when Mrs Poulose went walking with her family. Mr Anand, 22, and his four friends were swept inland by the same surge of water that brought tragedy to the Poulose family. Later, they could not find one of their friends. He, too, was taken by the sea.

In the Chennai shantytown of Pattinappakan, 50-year-old Ekambal Nayakar swam to safety while neighbours saved her 75-year-old mother. "The water entered the house neck-deep," she said. "Then I heard voices outside: 'Seawater! seawater!"'

In Sri Lanka, an elderly British couple and a teenage son wearing an England football jersey carried a bundle from which poked white feet. "My brother is dead," the lad said.

A Sri Lankan photographer, Gemune Amarasinghe, had planned a day of reflection to celebrate Poya, the day of the full moon, when Buddhists believe Buddha was born and attained enlightenment.

"People were running everywhere and the first waves hit the road," he wrote. "They were not huge, not too destructive. They brought fish to the shore and people rushed to collect them. Smiling boys ran with fish dangling in their hands."

But the waves kept coming, stronger and bigger. He struggled to high ground with others, some of whom were carrying their dead.

"White-capped floodwaters raced over the streets and between the houses. I counted 24 bodies in just under six kilometres. Bodies of children were entangled in fences."

One of them was a frail girl in a blue dress. But the emergency was so overwhelming, no one stopped to free her body. They were busy with their own dead, or their living.

"I was still in a daze and the enormity of the tragedy still hadn't dawned on me until I came upon the girl in the blue dress, caught in the fence," Mr Amarasinghe wrote.

It was not possible to get to her until the waters receded. The girl was between four and six years old.

Even in a great catastrophe, when the dead are all around, death is personal. One victim speaks for all.

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