As US struggles with Katrina, the world looks on

I was particularly struck by a quote I read in a Reuters article from someone in Sri Lanka who compared the post-tsunami atmosphere there with post-Katrina atmososphere in New Orleans. From the article:

But many have also been shocked by the images of disorder beamed around the world — looters roaming the debris-strewn streets and thousands of people gathered in New Orleans waiting for the authorities to provide food, water and other aid.

"Anarchy in the USA" declared Britain’s best-selling newspaper The Sun.

"Apocalypse Now" headlined Germany’s Handelsblatt daily.

The pictures of the catastrophe — which has killed hundreds and possibly thousands — have evoked memories of crises in the world’s poorest nations such as last year’s tsunami in Asia, which left more than 230,000 people dead or missing.

But some view the response to those disasters more favorably than the lawless aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"I am absolutely disgusted. After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering," said Sajeewa Chinthaka, 36, as he watched a cricket match in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

"Not a single tourist caught in the tsunami was mugged. Now with all this happening in the U.S. we can easily see where the civilized part of the world’s population is."

Well, while I do agree with Mr. Chinthaka that the criminal acts being committed in New Orleans right now are disgusting and make no excuses for it, I take issue with his implication that Sri-Lanka and other areas in Asia post-tsunami were mostly crime free. I think he and anyone else who may agree with him need a refresher:

Headline: Criminals target tsunami victims (1/4/2005)

There are already reports of looting in many of the affected countries – with homes, shops and even dead bodies being targeted.

And in Sri Lanka, some of the disaster victims have allegedly been raped in refugee camps.

One of the most disturbing allegations is that criminal gangs are befriending children orphaned by the tsunami, and selling them to sex traffickers.

The Indonesian government has banned children under the age of 16 from being transferred from the devastated province of Aceh amid fears that trafficking syndicates were moving into the area.

The UN’s children’s’ agency, Unicef, said it had received several reports of criminals offering kidnapped children from Aceh for sale or adoption.

And that’s not all:

In Sri Lanka, the National Child Protection Authority is investigating reports that two girls were sexually abused at a shelter in Galle, and a separate report that another woman was gang-raped.

Police told the AFP news agency they had received no complaints of rape, but a rights group in Colombo, the Women and Media Collective, said it had been told of "incidents of rape, gang rape, molestation and physical abuse".

"There is likely to be a lot of anger around, and this can be taken out on the women," said Mr Berry.

Even the dead are not safe from those who want to cash in on the disaster.

Jewellery has been reportedly stolen from the bodies of victims in Thailand – and from their homes and shops.


Even those who want to donate to the crisis have been affected.

A collection box for the disaster appeal was stolen from Salisbury Cathedral in England, and fake e-mail messages claiming to be from Oxfam have been sent to people in Hong Kong, asking them to donate money to the relief effort.

Any money donated went instead to a bank account in Europe, according to police and charity workers.

Now, what was Mr.Chinthaka’s quote again?

"Not a single tourist caught in the tsunami was mugged. Now with all this happening in the U.S. we can easily see where the civilized part of the world’s population is."

Oh sure we can see where it is, especially if you consider post-tsunami rapes, kidnapping, child trafficking, looting, stealing things off of dead people’s bodies, and disaster relief money being stolen as "civilized."

I probably shouldn’t have made a big deal about this, but his comments rubbed me the wrong way, especially considering the very generous aid that was poured in from the US into tsunami-affected areas. Yes, there are some despicable thugs in New Orleans now taking advantage of the human suffering and chaos that took hold in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but no one should look at what’s happening there and broadbrush this great country based on the heinous actions of those in the affected areas who chose lawlessness over civility and compassion.

(Cross-posted at BlogsForBush)

You can still contribute to the American Red Cross Hurricane 2005 Relief Fund or any one (or more!)  of a number of other great organizations out there mobilizing to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  If you do contribute, please log it here at the TTLB contribution page as he is tracking the amount of money raised from each blog.  Logging it is totally anonymous – in other words, you don’t have to give a name.  Just an amount, the charity you donated to, and the blog that encouraged you to do so.

Technorati Tags: Flood aid, Hurricane Katrina

Comments are closed.