The massive tsunami triggered by the powerful earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra has killed more than 29,000 so far, with the death toll likely to rise in the next few days.
The most catastrophic tremor in decades in the Indian Ocean has also left hundreds of thousands of people injured and homeless along the coastal regions. Thailand, India and Sri Lanka have suffered the most.
Though China itself was not hit, some 1,000 Chinese tourists were stranded on Thailand's Phuket island at one time and in the Maldives a tourist from China's Taiwan died. Dozens have been injured.
The calamity reminds us of the evil power of nature.
It attacked us swiftly and forcefully with few warnings, and left behind catastrophic destruction.
The absence of an international warning system in some countries in the Indian Ocean region was said to be one vital reason for the tremendous number of casualties.
Such a system can alert nations that destructive waves could hit their coastlines in three to 14 hours. But even the direction of this fatal tsunami was not determined because of the lack of sensors in this region.
As most tsunamis happen in the Pacific Ocean, countries along the Indian Ocean have neglected the importance of such a warning system.
Now this calamity urges all countries to consider such a warning system. Though we cannot prevent natural disasters, we can at least do something to reduce the number of casualties.
Joint human efforts are needed to cut the devastating effects.
Experts from the United Nations have warned of possible epidemics in Southern Asia and pointed out five vital issues to address: water, sanitation, food, shelter and health. International aid is badly needed here, where most of the affected are developing countries.
The Chinese Government has made a positive move, announcing on Monday it was offering 21.63 million yuan (US$2.62 million) of aids to seven Asian nations affected by the tsunami. Dozens of Chinese experts are ready to help with relief and rescue efforts.
But the geographical spread is posing a big challenge to the overall relief work.
After the shock and grief, what we need most is international co-operation to give some disaster relief.
(China Daily 12/29/2004 page6)