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Waves of destruction and death
The enormity of the devastation from the earthquake and tsunamis that swept across the Indian Ocean Sunday is almost unimaginable. With the death toll at more than 44,000 and rising hourly, millions of people left homeless, whole villages and islands destroyed, the video images hardly capture the scale of the calamity that hit two continents and washed across thousands of miles of coastline.
The massive underwater earthquake, the largest to strike in four decades, has turned numerous seaside getaways in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and several other nations into a living hell. The number of casualties is expected to increase significantly and the International Red Cross is concerned that waterborne diseases such as malaria and cholera could raise the stunning death toll.
The deadly tsunamis were triggered when a plate of the Earth's crust broke near the western tip of Sumatra and created a rupture several hundred miles in length. The 9.0 magnitude temblor set off tsunamis that built up speeds of as much as 500 miles per hour before they struck shore.
Tragically, experts say, thousands of lives in countries like Sri Lanka and India could have been saved if an early-warning system had been in place. Even though the quake's epicenter is located in one of the most geologically active areas in the world, the risk along the shores of the Indian Ocean has long been discounted, partly because no significant tsunamis have hit the area in more than a century.
That all changed quickly Sunday, when the enormous pressure that had been building for years was released in an instant, causing vast upheavals of water and carrying the quake's energy hundreds of miles across the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
The immediate destruction was bad enough, but for the next few days the sea will wash up bodies and debris. Officials say more aftershocks could bring more tidal waves. The details of the destruction and suffering will continue to emerge during the coming weeks.
The State Department has pledged a large commitment to the International Red Cross and is sending in supplies and patrol ships from bases in the Philippines and Dubai.
The United States has also promised up $15 million initially toward the relief effort, though billions in global aid will probably be needed. Relief agencies in Europe and the Middle East have already begun sending assistance.
The United States should use its might to help the victims and try its hand at nation rebuilding - something that should go a long way toward helping our nation regain some of the international goodwill it has lost in recent years
–By Mike Prince, General Manager of the Houston (Miss.) Times-Post. Note: Editorials from other newspapers printed in the FCT also represent the opinion of our editorial board.