David Hines (hradzka) wrote,
David Hines

The tsunami horror

There is a saying in military circles: amateurs talk tactics; professionals talk logistics. Forensic circles see similar stuff, sometimes. Amateurs often talk emotions. Lots of people ask how forensics people feel about their job, or about particularly gruesome stuff of one type or other. If it bothers you. The short answer is, "not all that often." Forensoids tend to be problem-oriented. Somebody has to deal with the bad stuff, and if you're a forensoid in that position that somebody's you, so you've got to figure out how to do it. Hence, logistics.

I can't even begin to imagine the logistics of this:
Named with grim irony Samudradevi, or Queen of the Sea, the train that left Colombo Fort station shortly after 9am on Sunday for its regular run to the southern city of Galle was full even by Sri Lankan standards.

As many as 1,700 passengers crammed its carriages or hung from the sides. It was a holiday weekend as well as a full-moon day when Buddhists offer special monthly prayers and people travel to visit relatives.

For most of its length the railway runs close to Sri Lanka's west coast, sometimes within sight of the beach. At Telwatta the track cuts through thick palm groves and the sea, 200 metres away, is barely visible.

Without warning, two hours after leaving Colombo, most of the train's hot and swaying throng were dead. A giant wave roared through the trees and threw the carriages off the rails, filling them instantly with water.

1700 people.

What I refer to on LJ as Jurisdiction City is not that big a town,.but it's big enough. The office I work at here has handled about 1700 people this year.

The total death toll from the tsunami continues to go up. As I type this, it's around 60,000 lives.

Here's what that means, in logistics:

A lot of people are never going to be found. Most of the people who are found will not be identified. It simply is not possible. There is not the time, the manpower, the *capability* to handle all of the work that would have to be done, and that's before you factor in nature. A lot of places are doing the only thing they can do, and burning corpses en masse, simply because there's no way to handle the transportation and biohazard problems. And that's a good and wise thing to do. They're going to face godawful public health emergencies as it is; no sense making it worse. A lot of people will never know for sure what happened to family members. That's bad. But as consequences go, it's one that a hell of a lot more people can live with. I mean that quite literally.

Amateur videos from various locations can be found here, and I found it very eerie to watch. We like to think we know what danger looks like, but it turns out a tsunami doesn't look anything like you'd think. I think "tsunami" and picture one huge obviously out-of-place giant wave, like those monsters off Hawaii's North Shore, but more so. That's wrong. Just how wrong can be seen as you watch the video taken by some folks in Malaysia, who are chattering happily (not in English) about the waves. It looks nice, a bit rough maybe, but nothing too bad, and then all of a sudden a wave hits the bottom of their deck, and they get a little thrill at viewing the ocean's power from a position of safety, unlike the poor sod who's on the beach and trying to get out of the way. Big waves, very funny, folks laugh. And then they KEEP COMING and all of a sudden the ocean is in your lap. And it doesn't stop.

On the other hand, sometimes it really does look like a huge wave. And it doesn't stop when you think it will. That's what I find the most frightening thing, and if I repeat myself it's because it really chills me: it's not a huge perfectly sculpted wave, just an ugly mass of water that does not stop.

If you pray, say a prayer for the living. And the dead.

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