Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti: It Could Be Worse

"Haiti death toll reaches 50 000"
APA (January 15, 2010)

"Haitian Red Cross estimated that 50,000 lost their lives in the deadly earthquake, but the government expects the death toll will exceed 500 000, APA reports. Three million suffered from the earthquake.

"First mass funeral was served in the country on Thursday. Haitian president Rene Preval said 7000 bodies were buried in the mass graves. UN mission in Haiti made new announcement about its losses during the earthquake. 36 UN workers were killed and 73 injured, 160 are still missing, including 8 workers of UNESCO mission in the country. 57-year old worker of the US State Department Victoria Delong was also among the quake victims in Haiti, US embassy’s three staff members became missing...."

50,000 dead. 7,000 people buried in mass graves. Today.

And rescue workers are still locating people trapped in the rubble and trying to get the ones they know about out.

Without minimizing how bad a week Haiti's been having, 'it could have been worse.'

For starters, there are survivors.

A little over 9,000,000 people live in Haiti. 50,000 dead - and that number may go up1 - is terrible. Tragic. But around 8,950,000 Haitians probably aren't dead.

They'll need help, lots of help: but for now, they're breathing. That's something to be glad about. (see "Haiti: About the Earthquake, Relief, and Related Topics," in this blog, for a list of high-profile aid organizations)

Earthquake Knocks Down Part of Haitian Capital: What Could Possibly Be Worse?

About 3,655 years ago, people living on an island north of Crete stopped living, in all probability rather abruptly, when their island exploded.

(from Department of Geological Sciences, San Diego State University, used w/o permission)

Today, we call what's left of their island the Santorini islands. The largest one is Thera, the others are Therasia ("little Thera"), Asporonisi, and the central Kameni Islands. (Department of Geological Sciences, San Diego State University)

Besides killing the people living on that island, a 50-foot tsunami bouncing around the Aegean did no good to the Minoan navy, or Minoan merchant ships. The Minoan civilization lasted more than a century after that eruption: but it may have been a factor in the fall of the Minos and its people.

Then there's the time, about 65,000,000 years ago, when something a few miles across came down where the Yucatan Peninsula is now.

The jury is still out on how that impact is tied in with the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction, but around the same time about 47% of the genera of marine species died out. Not species: genera - the next classification above species. The dinosaurs died out, too, along with quite a few other land vertebrates. ( (Just as well for us, as it turned out: Mammals were able to diversify when the big guys weren't around.)

Again, without minimizing the tragedy, the human loss, the urgency with which survivors in Haiti need help now: yes, it could be worse.

1 It did:

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