Sunday, December 26, 2004
Out of the Blue

With a natural catastrophe of this proportion, it is clear that the whole region will be picking up the pieces for the foreseeable future. Death toll is now 10,000 and rising, depending upon your news site. The number of deaths has also risen due to the natural clustering of human habitation along the coasts and increasing tourist development.

The Foreign Secretary sent out the message of condolences and said "stand by for action". However, there are no links or help on the website for families to telephone or leave messages for loved ones, holidaying in the tropics. Nothing on the State Department for US citizens either, although this may be dealt with at a local level. Australia is far better prepared with a hotline. The BBC, agitprop wing of the government, wishes to hear your experiences of the tsunami, but doesn't provide you with a number if you wish to let your loved ones know that you are still alive.

Especially as it is the holiday period, this is the time when such government departments should place themselves at the service of their citizens. Should, but don't.

So far, the economic consequences cannot be quantified although the insurance industry has taken another hammering (au revoir, soft market!). This is a horrific example of the increasing complexity that political, strategic or environmental risks take and that, sometimes, despite all the precautions, you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Update: The death toll is now 20,000 or 22,000. If you wish to take FCO advice, you have to examine every country in order to get the information such as the emergency telephone number. The telephone number is 0207 008 0000, or visit the 'Travel Advice by Country' on the FCO website.


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