Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Natural disasters - Asia

Impact of natural disasters in Asia and the Pacific, 1972–2000
number killed
number affected
(US$1 000)
South Asia 761 2 164 034 60 881
Southeast Asia 73 284 074 33 570
Northwest Pacific and East Asia 606 1 447 643 317 174
Central Asia 3 4 895 986
Australia and New Zealand 1 15 761 21 900
South Pacific 4 4 061 3 139
total 1 447 3 920 467 437 649

That is a hell of a lot of people and does not include the latest by way of the tsunami and the Pakistan earthquake. Those who die on the African continent are also missing.

I show it here as an introduction to a sort of apology on my part. That's not a phrase I type very often. Someone on a forum was querying God's purpose in natural disasters. I contributed my opinion that it was His form of birth control and served the purpose of limiting populations in countries which, generally, were inadequate in resources - physical, financial or motivational - to support the numbers there already at anything above the most basic level.

I'm sure there are enough who have read even this far to foresee what attention this attracted. I'm sure that without the protection of cyber space, I would have been excommunicated and crucified upside down many times over.

I make no apology. The concept of Holy Durex was one imparted to me by someone I regard as the nearest thing to a Saint that I have ever met. That includes Mother Teresa who said she would pray for me; I know not why. When I was based in Korea back in 1955'ish I came across an orphanage. It was a few miles off any beaten track. Dilapidated from something not too wonderful to start with. All wide open spaces and long corridors with big communal dormiteries. The Boss lady was a Sister Theresa. She had been at the monastry for 35 years at that time and had risen from junior bum wiper to Sister Superior. In all her time there, she had never been more than ten miles from the orphanage. This would have put here there at the time of the Japanese occupation of Korea. The Japanese had not been very nice but she did not say a word against them. She had no other Europeans with her and only a small team of Korean sisters and lay workers. The link here shows her in about 1953.

The place contained I know not how many kids. From babes in arms up to about 12 or 13 year olds. The adult staff were totally outnumbered and it was obvious that the kids looked after each other. Those of three looked after one year olds, five year olds looked after three year olds. The youngest were kept confined to their beds with sort of swaddling clothes round them and the whole tied to the bed frame. A fair proportion of the children had disabilities. Disabilities - what a nice sort of word. What they were called back then was cripples and that definitely described their lives and prospects. Some quite clearly had mental problems. There was nothing organised to keep the kids in any way involved in life. They had no toys, they knew no games, Half of them didn't even have names that they recognised.

When an outsider came - which I gathered was extremely rare - the children crowded around like sheep when feed is dished out. No animation, no pushing or shoving, no noise, nothing except big big eyes that followed any movement. If you put a hand in your pocket, all eyes followed it and waited to see what happened next. Clothing was scarce. Nearly all were totally barefoot. Most wore only some sort of vest that generally ended at about belly button level. I was told that this was all-year round wear. Korean winters are very very extreme. Vehicle radiators freeze up as the vehicle is driven along. Put a bare hand on metal and bits of skin stay behind. It is a wet cold.

I was dumbfounded. Korea was a place with very low standards of living but I had never even imagined this. It made Inn of the 6th Happiness look like Butlins. On that first chance discovery, I spoke with Theresa. She explained that the orphanage had been overcrowded whilst the war was in progress and the kids were genuine orphans. The children I was seeing were mainly mixed race progeny arising from kids born to Korean single mothers made pregnant by US troops. This was very shameful and the children were abandoned on the orphanage doorstep. Martha came out with the remark that 'these children are left on the doorstep. Many of them die before we find them in the winter and we have to bury them. And they are not even Catholic'. A woman made very hard by what she experienced. It was during one of my later visits that she commented that the future of these kids and the country was such that it would be better for them if they all went to Heaven as soon as possible. She then spoke of natural disasters being one way of keeping population within capability.

We got the place adopted by the Army. Many things 'disappeared' from their rightful place and ended up there. One of the most tangible changes was in the kids when they got to receive visitors. They became much more animated.

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