Natural Devastation The largest earthquake in 40 years shifted huge geological plates beneath the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, 2004, causing a immense and abrupt displacement of millions of tons of water. Indonesia villages closest to the epicenter were swamped within minutes, while elsewhere the waves radiated outward, making landfall at speeds topping 500 mph (web). The phenomenon we call tsunami is a series of large waves of extremely long wavelength and period usually generated by a violent, impulsive undersea disturbance or activity near the coast or in the ocean.

When a sudden displacement of a large volume of water occurs, or if the sea floor is suddenly raised or dropped by an earthquake, big tsunami waves can be formed by forces of gravity. The waves travel out of the area of origin and can be extremely unsafe and destructive when they reach the shore. Often the term, 'seismic or tidal sea wave' is used to describe the same phenomenon; however the terms are misleading, because tsunami waves can be generated by other, non seismic disturbances such as volcanic eruptions or underwater landslides, and have physical characteristics different of tidal waves. The tsunami waves are completely unrelated to the astronomical tides - which are caused by the extraterrestrial, gravitational influences of the moon, sun, and the planets. Thus, the Japanese word 'tsunami', meaning 'harbor wave' is the correct, official and all-inclusive term. It has been internationally adopted because it covers all forms of impulsive wave generation.

By far, the most destructive tsunamis are generated from large, shallow earthquakes with an epicenter or fault line near or on the ocean floor. These usually occur in regions of the earth characterized by tectonic subduction along tectonic plate boundaries. The high seismicity of such regions is caused by the collision of tectonic plates. When these plates move past each other, they cause large earthquakes, which tilt, offset, or displace large areas of the ocean floor from a few kilometers to as much as a 1, 000 km or more. The abrupt vertical displacements over such large areas, disturb the ocean's surface, displace water, and generate destructive tsunami waves.

The waves can travel great distances from the source region, spreading destruction along their path. It should be noted that not all earthquakes generate tsunamis. Usually, it takes an earthquake with a Richter magnitude exceeding 7. 5 to produce a destructive tsunami (web). People search for family through destroyed houses at Sirombu village in Nias, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 29, 2004.

Not only was Indonesia hit dramatically by this disaster, other areas included: Somalia where approximately 300 were said to be killed, Maldives where the death toll was 82, the tsunami left 37 of the Maldives's roughly 200 inhabited islands temporarily unsuitable for human habitation, destroying drinking water and food supplies as well as communications and power generation equipment, a government spokesman said. National elections scheduled for Dec. 31 were postponed indefinitely. Officials say the Maldives escaped a worse fate because the tsunami didn't gain height and break over the low-lying islands in the same way as it did over the coasts of large Asian countries, and because of Maldivians' experience in surviving in the water. However, because the Maldives is so low - by some estimates it's the world's lowest-lying country - a huge percentage of the country was underwater, and more than one third of the population was receiving some form of emergency aid after the disaster. Sri Lanka was also hit with a death toll of between 31, 000 and 38, 000, 40% of whom were children.

In India, at least 10, 700 were killed, in Bangladesh at least 2 were killed, in Myanmar an estimated 90 people lost their lives, in Thailand more than 5300 were killed, with about 2900 others missing. In Indonesia the death toll is between 126, 000 to 127, 000 with about 93, 000 to 116, 000 others mission. Aceh province on Sumatra island was near the quake's epicenter and was the hardest-hit part of the vast archipelago. The city of 400, 000 people was virtually unique in being destroyed by the temblor rather than the floodwaters. A week after the quake struck, U. S.

troops delivering the first aid to a village along the devastated western coast of Sumatra island rescued about 50 survivors - including many so weak they couldn't walk or talk. The Indonesian government conceded that public warnings came too late or not at all (web). The tsunami killed many foreigners who were vacationing or working in the area. The majority of dead and missing came from among the tens of thousands of Europeans escaping the winter cold at Thai tourist resorts, which were hit hard by the waves.

Here's a tally of victims according to their countries' foreign ministries, including numbers of missing. Sweden: 238 dead. 310 missing. Germany: 198 dead. About 449 missing. Finland: 86 dead.

93 missing. France: 85 dead. 15 missing. Britain: 79 dead. 112 missing.

Norway: 63 dead. 21 missing. Austria: 40 dead. 63 missing. Switzerland: 39 dead.

99 missing. Denmark: 32 dead. 14 missing. Japan: 32 dead. 13 missing. Australia: 23 dead.

18 missing. Italy: 21 dead. 53 missing. United States: 18 dead. 15 missing. Netherlands: 18 dead.

25 missing. Hong Kong: 15 dead. 25 missing. South Korea: 12 dead. 8 missing. Canada: 12 dead.

13 missing. South Africa: 11 dead. 4 missing. Belgium: 10 dead. 1 missing. Singapore: 9 dead.

Philippines: 5 dead. 10 missing. Israel: 4 dead. 3 missing. China: 3 dead.

15 missing. Czech Republic: 3 dead. 5 missing. Taiwan: 3 dead. Russia: 2 dead. 8 missing.

New Zealand: 2 dead. 4 missing. Ireland: 2 dead. 2 missing. Mexico: 2 dead. 1 missing.

Argentina: 2 dead. Brazil: 2 dead. Poland: 1 dead. 10 missing.

Portugal: 1 dead. 8 missing. Turkey: 1 dead. 5 missing. Estonia: 1 dead.

2 missing. Spain: 1 dead. 1 missing. Colombia: 1 dead. Chile: 1 dead.

Ukraine: 17 missing. Greece: 7 missing. Belarus: 5 missing. Hungary: 3 missing. Luxembourg: 3 missing. Romania: 2 missing.

Brunei: 2 missing An aerial view of a destroyed and flooded village after tidal waves near the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia, Dec. 28, 2004. People look at victim's bodies in Banda Aceh, western Indonesia, Dec. 27, 2004. This type of destruction was something so unreal to the world that an outpouring of relief efforts began to erupt soon after the news made it around the globe. Governments and global organizations have pledged almost $4 billion in tsunami disaster relief, according to the United Nations.

Additionally, private donations have poured in from people in the United States and around the world at unparalleled levels. These donations will help to cover the costs of the increasing health issues in the areas struck by the tsunami. Cholera is threatening our refugees,' read the banner headline of the return edition of Ser ambi Indonesia, the only newspaper in hard-hit Aceh province. Many areas around the Indian Ocean faced several possible medical emergencies in the wake of the tsunami disaster. The immediate concern was disease from a lack of clean water, with illnesses spread by mosquitoes seen as a threat in the weeks to follow. Contamination of drinking water facilities and the overflow of sewage treatment plants can lead to outbreaks of diarrheal diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

Also, some water-borne diseases can be spread through skin contact - such as dermatitis and ear, nose and throat infections - but not at epidemic levels. Early in the disaster, patients were turning up at hospitals with minor cuts and bruises. But rescue workers continued to find injured survivors in remote areas, and their wounds had worsened. The complications can lead to septicemia, or life-threatening blood poisoning, and to gangrene, forcing doctors to amputate limbs.

Overcrowded living conditions increase the risk of respiratory diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Doctors treating tsunami victims in the days after the disaster reported the second biggest health problem was pneumonia, transmitted by people who inhaled dirty water. The Centers for Disease Control cited avian influenza as another respiratory illness victims were potentially at risk for. Experts said that in the longer term, there could be increased incidence of malaria and dengue fever as mosquitoes bred in stagnant floodwaters. Saltwater does not breed the nastiest disease-spreading mosquitoes, however damage to the terrain will allow their proliferation in rainwater pools and where rivers have overflown. In the wake of the disaster health specialists also appealed for more attention to mental health counseling, which tends to be overlooked in undeveloped areas.

Though many survivors in such places have known misery, storms and natural horrors before, this catastrophe struck with extraordinary suddenness and intensity and took many children. 'I can't even imagine how they would do that, if you " re mourning the loss of your loved ones,' said Michael Oster holm, a public health expert at the University of Minnesota. 'How do you begin recovery?' The impact of a disaster or traumatic event goes far beyond the immediate devastation caused by the initial destruction. Just as it takes time to reconstruct damaged buildings, it takes time to grieve and rebuild our lives. Life may not return to normal for months, or even years, following a disaster or traumatic event. There may be changes in living conditions that cause changes in day-to-day activities, leading to strains in relationships, changes in expectations, and shifts in responsibilities.

These disruptions in relationships, roles, and routines can make life unfamiliar or unpredictable (web). Admiral Thomas B. Fargo, USN Commander, U. S. Pacific Command began his visitation throughout the area with a Roundtable Discussion in Malaysia.

"My purpose in this trip is to consult with our partners in this very complex multi-national relief effort. I have seen first hand the devastation brought by the tsunami, as well as the emergency relief work being done, particularly in Indonesia and Sri Lanka by the partner nations, including Malaysia. By the way, it is very clear that Malaysia's response to this disaster was both immediate and instrumental in the recovery. Words can not adequately describe the physical damage and human suffering brought by this [tsunami], one of the worst natural disasters the world has seen. I would also like to express my sympathy to the Malaysian people over their loss.

Yet, with all of the deep sadness brought by this calamity, one does find hope and profound inspiration in the unprecedented outpouring of support from around the world for the victims. Nowhere is this more evident than in the immediate military response from nations in the region and countries around the world. The military role is to provide its unique capabilities and significant capacity to provide immediate relief and save lives. This was especially important in Aceh where many were isolated by damaged roads and bridges that are often completely missing; gone, simply vanished, along with [the] landscape, houses, entire villages. That is the reason we sent the USS Abraham Lincoln and a large contingent of C-130 s, some of which are operating from Malaysia immediately to the area. The ability of military forces from the US and neighbors in the region to immediately respond with helicopters, cargo aircraft, and other capabilities saved lives.

In Indonesia, for example, their own aircraft were supported by helicopters from many nations from this region, including Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and the U. S. They provided food and water where there was none and evacuated sick and injured people to hospitals. Though much work remains to be done in clearing debris and preventing disease, this military support will, at some point, no longer be needed and will transition to the host nation and international, professional relief organizations, many of which are with the UN.

This will occur, in my view, when affected nations and international organizations have the necessary capacity to move beyond immediate relief and into rehabilitation and reconstruction. This work can [be] and is done more efficiently by professional relief organizations." Admiral Fargo has support not only from the military, but also from the President. "From our own experiences, we know that nothing can take away the grief of those affected by tragedy. We also know that Americans have a history of rising to meet great humanitarian challenges and of providing hope to suffering peoples. As men and women across the devastated region begin to rebuild, we offer our sustained compassion and our generosity, and our assurance that America will be there to help." President George W.

Bush, January 3, 2005. The President and the Admiral inspired the leaders of the other countries, and gave them hope to continue on. Relief Efforts To Date: o To date, the United States has committed $350 million in emergency relief assistance - which will be replenished in the supplemental to enable the United States to respond to future emergencies. This is in addition to operational costs incurred by the Department of Defense. Relief resources have been focused on emergency food assistance, provision of relief supplies, shelter, water and sanitation, health, education, cash for work, livelihoods recovery, psychological and social support, protecting women and children from human-trafficking, logistics and coordination, and debris clean-up.

o When the earthquake hit, USAID immediately worked to mobilize staff to respond to the humanitarian needs in the affected countries. At the height of the relief effort, more than 150 USAID personnel, including Disaster Assistance experts, were on the ground in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Maldives, and the Seychelles conducting assessments of affected areas, managing U. S. civilian response, participating in the overall coordination of relief and reconstruction activities, apprising funding requests, and recommending appropriate U. S. Government relief efforts.

o The United States, through USAID, has funded debris clean-up and other community rehabilitation projects in the relief phase benefiting more than 344, 000 people through cash-for-work projects and temporary shelter for more than 165, 000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India. o USAID has also funded water and sanitation activities in the emergency phase benefiting more than 885, 000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and the Maldives. o USAID provided 21, 220 metric tons for the first four months of World Food Program (WFP) operations, contributing to WFP's beneficiary total of 1. 4 million tsunami victims. o The Defense Department brought into action military assets to support relief operations in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. The Defense Department has been providing vital supplies and logistics to the humanitarian effort since December 30.

o At the height of the DOD humanitarian support activities, there were nearly 16, 000 U. S. military personnel in the region focused on this effort. o There were 26 ships, 58 helicopters, and 43 fixed wing aircraft. o DOD delivered over 10 million pounds of food and supplies and provided well over 400, 000 gallons of fresh water. o To date, DOD has treated almost 2, 500 patients.

o Other agencies have also contributed to the effort including the State Department with diplomatic coordination, the Department of Health and Human Services by deploying technical health experts, the Department of Agriculture with food aid, and the Treasury Department through the efforts of the international financial institutions. o Former Presidents Bush and Clinton will visit tsunami-affected countries of South and Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the Maldives in February 2005. o Estimates place the generous private-sector donations towards the tsunami relief efforts at more than $700 million. (web) Monetary support will continue to contribute to the relief efforts, emotional support, adoptions, medical care and counseling will also help to contribute to the relief, however, nothing can replace the lives affected, the loved ones lost, and the landscapes altered. Works Cited CBS News. 05 Jan.

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17 May 2005. U. S. Pacific Command Tsunami Relief Website. 20 Jan. 2005.

U. S. Pacific Command Tsunami Relief Website. 17 May 2005. White House Homepage. 3 Jan.

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