In the Suburbs: Nepal quake a grim reminder of life's random tragedies
Japan 2011, Haiti 2010, Sichuan 2008, Kashmir 2005, and now Nepal.
These deadly earthquakes have wiped out towns and cities and the death tolls, already at more than 4,000 in Nepal, have reminded us about devastation wreaked on property and the economy, let alone human life. A report I read on the most recent earthquakes and their devastation indicated that this earthquake could set economic development back by 10 years or more. Ironically, the piece pointed out that despite the loss of human life in Nepal, the economic damage will probably not be as great there because it is considered a developing nation.
The quake struck Mount Everest, as well, triggering a deadly avalanche and taking the lives of climbers in an instant. The initial descriptions were reminiscent of pages from author John Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air." From what I learned, there are some 50 Americans still missing on various parts of Mount Everest and about 23 have already been rescued. Four Americans reportedly died in the quake and avalanche that followed.
Just seeing the images from Nepal took my breath away. Here, we go about our daily activities, almost oblivious to what's happening on the other side of the world. And within minutes, thousands were wiped out and others left camping along roads, too petrified to go back to their still-standing homes, fearing that they could collapse any second.
I remember feeling the same way after the earthquake in Japan and the even more deadly tsunami that followed, striking several small villages. In researching, I discovered that the economic toll from the Japan earthquake was in the billions of dollars. That mixed with the loss of more than 15,000 people made Japan one of the worst quakes in history.
According to Reuters reporter Jason Karaian, "As rescuers search for survivors of Nepal's devastating earthquake, they bring with it a grim accounting -- at the time of writing, there are more than 3,600 confirmed dead and more than 6,500 injured, according to the Nepalese police. With many remote mountain villages affected by the quake and its aftershocks, the human toll is likely to rise in the days to come. The U.S. Geological Survey's latest estimate puts a better than 50 percent chance that fatalities will eventually rise to 10,000 or more.
"Although saving lives is the focus now, the terrible cost to Nepal's economy and cultural heritage is also becoming clear. The financial damage may amount to a significant chunk of Nepal's $20 billion annual GDP, to say nothing of the many priceless monuments and artifacts that have been lost.
"Given Nepal's limited economic development, the overall financial cost will be smaller than less deadly natural disasters in other places. Nepal's tragedy will follow a pattern similar to other earthquakes -- 2010 in Haiti, 2005 in Kashmir and 2004 in the Indian Ocean -- that resulted in a massive loss of life but limited financial losses for the global economy, and specifically the insurance industry."
"What can I do?" I wondered. I certainly can't drop everything and join a volunteer squad heading to Nepal. But I'm learning that right here in Connecticut, Fairfield-based Save the Children and Stamford-based AmeriCares have mobilized to provide emergency assistance of all kinds to the sticken nation. To donate, go to www.savethechildren.org or www.americares.org.
And in our school, I've mentioned to our seniors that we might consider a fundraising event of some kind for donations. My guess is that monetary donations are needed more than anything else.
Nepal is yet another grim reminder for all of us that life is a precious gift and it can be snatched from us in an instant. I can only hope that loved ones will be reunited and rebuilding will begin quickly. No one should suffer such devastation.
Steven Gaynes' "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.