Yesterday we ventured out a little more, talked to a few more people, evaluated the situation, dealt with the shock of the event. Right now, it is Dec 28 noon. Heres more news of how we and those around us are doing.
Our island is Male, the capital, and it sustained only minor damage. The outlying village islands, including the airport are in poor condition, some of them wiped out completely, while some are untouched. The infrastructure for assisting the people affected by this disaster is in its infancy here in the Maldives. The economics of the country will certainly be affected greatly, as Tourism is their main industry. Drew’s work is directly related, of course, so we will see what comes next. Newscasts originating in the Maldives in English were not available December 26.
Here in Male, by the evening of Dec 26, when we were walking around, much of the damage had already been cleaned up. Some of the sandbags we saw going up on the buildings dockside that night were bags of damaged rice and beans. As mentioned previously, there was damage to seawalls and sidewalk bricks, and dockside shops and first level homes would have been flooded. Water would have come in at around the height of two feet, penetrating between two and four blocks into the perimeter of the island. Anything on the floor level would have been soaked, so many of the dockside shops will have lost merchandise. Male homes near the water would have been waterlogged, but we didnt see any evidence of furniture strewn out onto the street. Our apartment is a block and a half in from the dock, and our street had water on it. Our teashop another block and a half in from the waters edge had no water on the street. Shops three blocks inland were all functioning as normal the evening of the 26th, within hours of the wave event.
A friend was having breakfast the morning of the wave, Dec 26. They departed the restaurant to find people running towards the center of the island yelling that water was coming. They joined in the fray, until they realized that if the water was coming, they really couldnt run very far. The island is only 1 km wide, and not quite 2 km long. They had perhaps ten blocks to run before they were in the center of the island, and if the water was rushing in from both directions in a great wave, there was no place to run. They were much relieved to return to their apartment, wading through the water, instead of being swept away by it.
24 hours after the wave, it was recommended that we stay away from the seawall. The second earthquake off eastern India has sent a scare to the south coastal regions of India. The people of India were told to stay away from coastal areas. We dont have that option, as everywhere in the Maldives is coastal. On Dec 28, noon, we have felt no other quakes, nor have received any other waves.
It was also suggested that we stock up on fresh water, should the supply be in jeopardy. We had just filled up a 5 x 10 kiddie’s pool full of fresh water. This should be about 500 gallons. Our kids are good about going to the toilet, compared to peeing in the pool, so weve got water, and enough to share.
While Male has only minimal damage, some of the outlying islands have not fared as well. The island of Male is 3 feet higher than the outlying islands, and is protected by a seawall, and tetrapod breakers. The other islands of the archipelago are lower, and some would have had the wave sweep over it completely. On that first night Dec 26, we had heard that tourists from 5 star hotels were relocated to spend the night sleeping on the floor of 3 star hotel restaurants. So, some rescue attempts right from the start have been successful. Some resort islands are described as being gone. Gone being uninhabitable, destroyed as its function as a resort. Soneva,Konahura and Medhufushi are only some of the names I recognized and remembered. Pilots and tour operators would know much more than we do regarding specific resort islands. As well, our friends Tim and Anne were planning to come to Asdu in late January. They have made contact with their travel agent, and their plans are to continue with their travel. This resort is located inside the atoll ring slightly, and so would not have received the brunt of the wave action. Islands on the Eastern outside edge of the atoll would have been affected the most. We had hoped that their resort was unscathed, due to its location, and are glad to hear that this resort is okay, both for the resort itself, the people who make their livelihood there and for our friends.
On Dec 27, news reports indicated there are 43 dead in the Maldives. Officially, the President had admitted to only 3. Today, Dec 28, the official Maldivian report is 46 dead, 73 confirmed missing. Those inclined to be skeptical of the governments honesty believe the numbers may be intentionally misleading. Might this be the political effort to manipulate the feelings of the locals? I dont know enough about the politics to do more than guess. I havent found todays Maldivian death toll on the national news reports on the internet. There are so many areas with such higher death tolls, internationally the numbers just keep rising into the tens of thousands.
The infrastructure for assisting the people affected by this disaster is in its infancy here. When local friends tried to call to find out how to help, or arrived in various locations to assist physically, there was little to do.
However, there is a school drop off point for locals to bring food, water and clothing to provide provisions for the incoming displaced islanders. The village island people are coming to Male. Many of the islands have been swept over by water, so furniture, appliances, perhaps even houses have simply been washed away. From pilots who have been flying overhead, weve heard reports of large dhonis (the specific name and design of the local boat) being at islands. People are on the beach, or on the dhonis. I imagine that some people would have been washed away, but many have survived.
The best help that we can come up with is for the tourists to continue to come here and spend their money, rather than stay away and let the income support dry up. This is a big factor for us in our continuation of the Sri Lanka visit. We were planning to stay in hotels, eat meals, and visit sights, so we shall continue with this plan, despite what else results. Well, perhaps we wont get paid for this last months work, as the company may be in serious jeopardy, and so, that would certainly curtail our personal ability to spend money. If we havent got it, how can we spend it?
Another excellent way to help would be to donate money to the Red Cross. The people hit most in our area would be Sri Lanka, and the medical facilities and supplies would be extremely limited.
Locally, purchasing large bags of rice, beans, cases of bottled water and clothing would certainly be of great help in assisting these people. The distribution point is currently at a local school, already mentioned. In purchasing food here the money is spent locally, supporting the local businessman, who deals in bringing in rice, food, water, etc anyway, so his livelihood continues, and village people would be the recipients.
The economics of the country will certainly be affected greatly, as Tourism is their main industry. We are concerned for the personal economy of each person living here in Male. We are worried for example, for the construction workers that are involved in the building construction all around us. They get paid daily for the work they do. If they work, they eat fish and rice for supper tonight. If they dont work, because the financers of the building are not making money from the resorts, then they will not be able to eat. The recovery of tourism is of utmost importance.
At some point, village rebuilding will occur. This infrastructure will have to be developed. Currently, there would be a lack of supply ships, bulldozers to build roads, desalination plants to provide drinking water and so on. The standard method of construction here is build tall buildings one floor at a time in a very labour intensive manner. Concrete forms are built on the spot, there are few cranes. We watch motorized hoists that bring up concrete hoppers the size of 2 1/5 gallon water buckets up to the fifth floor to pour concrete by the hopperful. Often the concrete is hoisted by hand. There will be ten ot twelve men on the floor where the concrete pouring is occurring, wheelbarrowing the concrete in place, raking the concrete around, manning the hoist. Construction here is labour intensive, not machinery intensive. How will the country and international aid agencies work out their strategy of rebuilding? We have no information on this process, or if it has been started yet. We do know that today, Dec 28, the emphasis is still on rescueing people from the islands. When rebuilding occurs, much will be required in the form of machinery and supplies.
Even at Drews work, its a simple matter of purchasing new stock, as supplies and tools were swept away, or completely damaged due to saltwater soaking. Drew has one toolbox left of three. Electronic testing equipment is gone, swept away. For tools, he has screwdrivers and wrenches left, a few pliers. After a few hours of walking around in a daze, in concert with everyone else walking around in a daze, looking at the devastation around them, Drew took home some avionics parts. If tools and repair parts were not washed away into the ocean, they were left scattered, full of seawater. There is no electricity or fresh water available at his work. He arrived home with two boxes of avionics electronics that were riddled with salt and sand. We filled up the kids pool, which is doubling as our emergency water supply, and put all the avionics parts in it. This will at least halt the corrosion caused by the saltwater. He is amazed at the salt crystal growth that occurred in these electronic parts. Today, he is on his second day of washing electronics parts. These parts will not be usable as they are, but his washing of them will enable them to be transported back to Canada, where they can be salvaged.
Another thought, of course, is how long will the food supplies last? Many food supplies come from Australia, New Zealand, Germany and South Africa. But much also comes from Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and Indonesia those locations that were hit the hardest. Rice is the staple. Where will it come from? Okay, now were definitely thinking way too much. If Drews work continues, that means tourism is doing okay, and we wont be a personal strain on the international aid bringing in food. And if we can stay, we can personally to assist by making donations of bags of rice, etc. Will tourism continue? We see this as the single most important long term concern after the international aid that addresses the immediate concerns of saving lives and bringing in food and supplies.
On Dec 27, Maldivian Newscasts in English were not available. By December 28, we were able to access Maldivian news site with English news articles. Much of the information I am relaying is from coworkers, residents, our own conclusions and of the few locals that we know.