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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Captivated by disaster

Captivated by disaster

Last updated 12:17 15/03/2011
I think I'm starting to suffer from disaster fatigue. There's only so much bad news and horrific footage one mind can handle before it all becomes too much. However, there is some footage in particular over the last few days that I've found far more disturbing than crushed buildings or villages being washed away.

Watching the news the other night, I found myself enraged by the arrogance displayed in front of nature as people ignored the warnings and were seen taking leisurely strolls along the beach both during and just hours after the initial predictions of tsunami waves making landfall had passed. Some of the people in question were there after the predicted arrival times of the waves, but scientists have themselves said that such waves are incredibly unpredictable and the first wave is also not always the smallest.

During a time when people are still being urged to stay away from shorelines, I found it somewhat disrespectful considering the devastation on the other side of the Pacific. I might just be overly cautious, but if we don't take such warnings seriously each time they are issued then eventually we'll be lured into such complacency that we won't heed the warnings and will get caught out. If you just think it's a little boy crying wolf, then what will you do when the wolf shows up in front of you?

I often find it hard to explain the fascination people have with disaster. In the case of those caused by nature it is perhaps a state of disbelief that something like this could happen - that in the grand scheme of things, humankind has no power and there is a force much bigger and more powerful than us. That certainly explains why so many people have been glued to the pictures on the news, but going down to the beach and standing in the water to wait? That's just crazy.

Such disaster footage humbles us and reminds us that our problems are nothing compared to what people in these quake-ravaged regions are going through. We should be thankful for everything we have and always live life to the full.

It's similar to the way people slow down to stare at a car crash - rubbernecking. I understand that people are curious to see things with their own eyes, but if you're going to go and watch for tsunami waves coming in, why wouldn't you make sure you're up on a cliff or a high hillside first? Going down to the beach at all is a bad idea and I don't know what is going through a person's head when they have plenty of warning and still decide to do that.

During the weekend in California, five people were dragged off the beach by tsunami waves after going down to watch them come in. What annoys me is that they intentionally placed themselves in harm's way and then money will have been unnecessarily spent on a search and rescue effort. That may seem a little harsh, but if you have plenty of warning about tsunami waves coming, then why would you ignore those warnings and not stay away from the water until being told it's safe to return?

My heart goes out to all my friends in Japan and the thousands affected by the Tsunami and earthquake there.

Also, to everyone in Christchurch, we haven't forgotten about you!

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