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    Sumatra earthquake provisionally measured at 8.5 M

    The earthquakes in Sumatra demonstrate how bad things can get when a natural disaster strikes at the perfect place to maximize damage: a central location in a Third World country, surrounded by other Third World countries, in the middle of tourist season. Tidals waves have radiated out in several directions, hitting Thailand and Sri Lanka and Maldives hard. The Indian mainland has seen damage in the southeast also. Of course, all of these places are either coastal countries or islands, so they’re not unprepared for maritime disaster; but the scope of damage is obviously immense. Additionally, developing countries are developing countries, and general medical and transportation infrastructure may accordingly not be up to coping with multiple emergencies.

    I know that weather has interfered with travel for a lot of Americans this Christmas, and the broadcasts from the States appear, understandably, to be devoted mostly to that, to the holiday itself, and to the most recent attack in Iraq. Problems in Southeast Asia–from the Bali bombing to Thailand’s hitman-style drug war to just about everything else–seem to get very little play in the American media even on a slow day, though. I hope the scope of the damage, which is still undetermined and likely to keep growing over the next week, isn’t downplayed.

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