Deschutes Public Library News
Tsunami: One Year Later
Posted By: Liz Goodrich
Date Posted: 11/22/2005
On December 4, 2005, Craig Morton who spent time in the Banda Aceh region of Sumatra following the tsunami of 2004, will offer insights into the devestation caused by the tsunami and the efforts to rebuild lives in a program at the Sunriver Area Public Library at 2:00 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.
On December 26, 2004, an earthquake measuring 9 on the Richter Scale (one of the largerst quakes in recorded history) struck just off Sumatra, Indonesia, in a fault line running under the sea. The quake caused the huge waves, known as tsunamis, to hurl away from the epicenter towards the shores of 10 countrires. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and the livelihoods of millions were destroyed in one of the biggest natural disasters in recent human history.
Morton, who arrived three weeks after the devestaing waves of the tsunami, spent two weeks helping with relief efforts in the remote areas of Sumatra, Indonesia. What he saw when he arrived he compares to a war zone. “It looked like a nuclear bomb had leveled the landscape,” says Morton. When he and his 19 year old daughter arrived in Sumatra, they teamed up with a young man they met at the airport. “Matt had lost his entire family and he was looking for a way to make a living.” Morton employed him as his translator and guide. Morton is in regular contact with Matt. “He sends pictures of the reconstruction and keeps me updated on the progress.”
Although he wasn’t a part of any official aid agency or relief organization, he spent time working with Save The Children and MercyCorps doing a variety of things, including delivering rice to isolated communities in the affected region. Morton points out that reconstruction has been slow.
“Because of the civil war that has been ongoing for the past 30 years and the corruption of the local government, things move slowly,” says Morton. But he is optimistic and says that the tsunami affected more than just the physical landscape. “There seems to have been a shake up because of the disaster and the political arena is changing.”
While in Sumatra, Morton saw firsthand what people around the world saw on the news; death, destruction and despair. “We saw roads lined with body bags. They were pulling 1,000 bodies a day from the wreckage.” But Morton also stresses the positive. “The human species has a remarkable ability to rebound. Just a week after the tsunami, I saw children, although they had been orphaned, playing in the streets. They were getting back to the business of being children.” Morton is also quick to point out the differences between natural disasters in developing countries and the United States. “You would never see someone from Banda Ache speak on the news about how poorly the government responded to the crisis. They wouldn’t expect the government to do anything anyway. Whereas, citizens from the U.S. expect, and rightly so, our government to handle disasters quickly and efficiently.” Morton believes the world is getting better at responding to disasters world-wide. “The internet has really changed the way people get information. We don’t have to wait for the nightly news. We can get on the web and see what is happening in real time.” This change in how we get our information has casued a ground swell of people wanting to help. “The need and the human cost are more immediate,” says Morton.
Morton’s presentation will include slides and personal stories of his time in Sumatra. “I’m not a geological or policitical expert. I am just someone who felt called to help.” Morton says looking back one year later will provide the world with perspective on the disaster. “We’re just now understanding the cost.” For more information about this or other library programs, please call 312-1032.