The devastating tsunamis that crashed into countries around the Indian Ocean, killing perhaps 52,000 people, have been described as a 100-year event. The around-the-world relief effort...

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The devastating tsunamis that crashed into countries around the Indian Ocean, killing perhaps 52,000 people, have been described as a 100-year event.

The around-the-world relief effort should be just as enormous and exceptional.

The pictures, the stories and overwhelming human costs make it almost impossible to dismiss this as an event happening far away and therefore not our problem.

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It is our problem. U.S. government aid and private donations in support of relief groups working in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and other countries have to be swift and generous.

The U.S. Agency for International Development planned to add $20 million to an initial $15 million contribution for earthquake relief, a figure that could and should go much higher.

In addition to sending supplies of shelter, food and water, an important phase of assistance will center on preventing the spread of diseases such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis A.

The United Nations emergency-relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, a Norwegian, pleaded for individuals and governments to respond to the disaster. He was forced to take back an earlier, unfortunate statement that wealthy nations are stingy. After an appropriate verbal slap from Secretary of State Colin Powell, Egeland said the response has been quick and generous. This is no time for back-biting among relief coordinators and providers.

It is difficult to see pictures of children who perished lined up row after row in makeshift morgues, parents weeping at their sides, and not be inspired to help.

Two Northwest agencies are part of the relief effort: World Vision of Federal Way and Portland-based Mercy Corps. World Vision is mobilizing relief workers from Asia and other countries.

Aid workers from Mercy Corps also will be in Southeast Asia. (To help, contact www.worldvision.org or www.mercycorps.org).

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake was the world’s largest in four decades. The tsunamis that followed are the deadliest in more than a century. In such dire circumstances, the relief effort also should be sweeping and powerful.