Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nature Doesn't Discriminate

It's hard to keep up with world news while traveling. Internet connection is unpredictable, and TVs are few and far between at times. Cell phones lack service, unless you purchase a phone card specific to the country you find yourself in. Newspapers can even be hard to come by. However, just because you're removed from the media, does not mean that the media ceases to exist.

This is something I've learned throughout my time traveling both in and out of the United States.

On Monday in Honduras, after we had returned from the worksite, my three other roommates and myself decided on a shower order. I agreed to go last, because I had baby-wiped the dirt off my arms and legs and crawled into my bed for a short nap.

I slept lightly and half-listened to the conversations that the others girls were having in between showers. At one point as I drifted more into sleep than conciousness I suddenly felt my bed shaking lightly. I thought that one of the other girls and bumped into the end of my bed accidentally, because the room was small and had four beds packed tightly into it with minimal space for navigating. I ignored the shaking and continued to sleep until it was my turn for a shower.

The next day at breakfast I overheard someone mention an earthquake that had hit the previous night, and whether anyone had felt it. I chimed in that I had, although I hadn't realized it was an earthquake at the time.

The quake hit in Southern Honduras, somewhere between the boarder of Honduras and Guatemala, outside the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa around 5:40pm. The earthquake was felt specifically in the western areas and the northern Caribbean cities of Tela, La Cieba, El Progreso, and San Pedro Sula. It was recorded at 4.9 on the Richter Scale, although the effects felt in El Progreso, where we were located, were much smaller.

Around 5:40pm was the time I felt my bed shaking.

Thankfully, there was no death toll or significant property damage (although "significant" is a word I'm hesitant to use, because that word probably applies to people with higher incomes who live in more stable housing than the many in the country who live in extreme poverty and live in scrap metal, tin and mud brick houses).

The lack of damage is good news for Honduras. They already endured a large scale earthquake, recorded at 7.3 on the Richter Scale, back on May 28th, 2009. The earthquake destroyed three bridges, one of which was the main connection between El Progreso and San Pedro Sula over the Ulua River, called the Democracy Bridge. Since then, another bridge has been built directly beside the collapsed Democracy Bridge. The collapsed bridges were in addition to large scale damage and collapse of schools and homes, as well as killing at least 3 people, with other death tolls ranging from 6 to 12 people.

Unfortunately, only a day after the minor effects we felt in El Progreso from the Guatemalan-Honduran boarder earthquake, Haiti experienced an earthquake 7.0 on the Richter Scale.

The earthquake in Haiti is something I didn't hear about until Friday, and that is what I mean by "It's hard to keep up with world news while traveling." Returning home and hearing about the destruction that occured in Haiti really struck a chord in me because of the stories I heard about the destruction that occured in Honduras only months earlier.

One article that I've read gave more information than most about the earthquake. It's heartbreaking hearing about how many people have died, the lack and inability of immediate emergency response, and the destruction of the entire country.

Nature doesn't discriminate. It levels the playing field and targets people from all backgrounds and walks of life. The archbishop died in the earthquake. Dozens of UN officials are dead, and hundreds are unaccounted for. Thousands of the poor, middle class, and wealthy are dead or missing. The death toll estimates come as high as 200,000 with the count right now somewhere around 70,000.

It's mind boggling.

If you're interested in helping, there are numerous ways to do so.
You can find some information here on how to donate and help the people of Haiti.

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