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A side of the tsunami disaster rarely seen

The crisis in three dimensions

A side of the tsunami disaster rarely seen

The Editor,

I spent many holidays in Thailand and work as an emergency nurse in Dubai in Abu Dhabi at the moment, but still read your paper on a weekly basis on the Internet.

In wonder and disgust I have been following the news in Thailand and seen pictures as the tourists once again put on suntan lotion and lie on the beach tanning. I understand that Thailand lives off tourism. But I think it is disgusting that people can lie down peacefully as if nothing has happened.

I was called on Wednesday at 10.30 p.m. for an emergency escort of an airplane to Sweden. By 2.30 a.m. was at the airport and we were quickly briefed about the situation on the airplane, before it arrived at 4.30 p.m. Until the plane landed in Abu Dhabi, a doctor, who was on the flight as a passenger, was taking care of the patients on board. And although several days have already passed, since that day I am still brooding about the situation that awaited us in that airplane.

The passengers had not been severely injured; some had open wounds, small bone fractures and slight bruising. But the worst part was their expressions. Their faces bore no expressions, only empty looks. Some passengers suddenly broke out in tears for no apparent reason. The airplane was so quiet it was a chilling feeling.

I have worked in a lot of evacuation procedures (Iraq, Palestine) but what do you say to a woman who lost three children and whose husband still hasnít been found? Or to children who watched their parents get washed away? I have still not found the answer.

I worked for over 40 hours, without closing an eye. For me this was the worst experience I have had to take part in my life.

Maybe these words will get people to think a little before they put on their sunscreen and lay at the beach to get a tan.

Nurse Brigitte Peetz
Abu Dhabi

The crisis in three dimensions

Dear Chiangmai Mail,

The sheer loss of life is becoming biblical: 126,571 and rising, the official death toll here in Thailand just doubled overnight as the reality of those reported missing, being found, is turning against the odds. As I write this, 4,541 dead, almost half tourists and half Thais, many of the Thais my colleagues in the hospitality industry.

The offer of help and aid is pouring in, estimated at more than US$1 billion following a ten-fold increase in the USAís pledge to US$350M.

The feeling of helplessness still prevails. As the country quietly welcomed in the New Year last night, there was an increasing uneasiness that things were becoming worse. The situation in Bandah Aceh and Sri Lanka is almost nuclear in the scale of the destruction. I fear more of the same will be found throughout the region. The sheer size of the area of the disaster makes quick and urgent assessments difficult. The changing daily death toll total is indicative of just how difficult the authorityís tasks are.

Taking a step back from the up front, in your face dimensions of the tragedy, is the more human perspective. One of hope, unity, and as His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand said in his speech to the nation last night, he asked that the good hearts of the Thai people help the nation through this difficult time. It seems to be working. The outpouring of help from the Thai people is staggering, the whole country offering assistance, money, clothes and food in unprecedented proportions.

And what of the third dimension ... the future? More difficult times ahead I predict, as the first batch of an already escalating number of international cancellations arrive. More than 20 percent for my Bangkok hotel alone (representing over 2,000 room nights for January) from overseas operators fearing disease. Cancellation of conference and banqueting celebration parties add to the worry.

However, I guess we are lucky. We are not facing an unfortunate future as many are in the worst hit areas. No - it will not get any easier, but the work of the TAT, NGOís, PATA, and the DMCís in crisis management and information sharing as been exemplary. For Thailand, one of the more developed countries in the tsunami affected areas, the hope of protecting jobs and the economy is to spread the message of recovery and to counter the threats of disease and pollution with force. That will take money, aid and manpower.

Above all this, we must maintain clear and concise information on the extent of the damage. One excellent report I saw, which was painstakingly compiled by a local DMC (calling each property and not relying on hearsay), listed all hotels and resorts in the affected areas and this was sent around the world to offer a comprehensive guide to which resorts and hotels were closed and which were functioning normally. Of 245 hotels listed, 80 were shown to have closed due to damage. The most numerous to be found on Phi Phi and at Khao Lak. In other words, almost 70 percent of the southern provinces hotels have remained largely damage free.

For those wishing to receive more information on missing persons or to pledge donations can seek information on www.disaster.go.th or www.phuketcity.com
Andrew J Wood
General Manager
Chaophya Park Hotel and Resorts