Jan 252005
 
Authors: Brian Park

 

For More Information:

– American Red Cross Centennial Chapter – (970) 226-5728 or www.coloradoredcross.org

– Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity – (970) 223-4522 or www.fortcollinshabitat.org

Organizations in the Fort Collins area and around the world are working hard to help countries left in the wake of last month's tsunami.

The tsunami, which was triggered by the fourth-largest earthquake ever recorded, spread high waters, devastation and death throughout Southeast Asia and the eastern shores of Africa.

With the death toll now at more than 225,000 people and counting, the relief effort for these affected countries is in full swing. Problems are beginning to arise, such as the threat of insect-transmitted diseases, the impact the tsunami will have on tourism and the economic challenges these countries will face.

Disease

The threat of insect-transmitted diseases is high and could cause more deaths.

"It is very difficult to make a guess on how many people might die from these diseases, but the World Health Organization has estimated that another 200,000 people will die due to diseases that have came about in the aftermath of the tsunami," said Chester Moore, professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Studies.

Dengue fever, malaria and Japanese encephalitis are three insect-transmitted diseases Moore believes will infect the devastated regions.

"These diseases will cause big problems, not only deaths, but a tremendous amount of illness and economic loss," Moore said.

Other obstacles in guessing and preparing for how many people could become infected are the weather and the capability of other countries' health resources.

"When you have this much damage, it's hard to estimate how they can handle what's going to happen in the next couple of months," Moore said.

 

Tourism

The tourism industry of these countries is another area on which the tsunami is having an immediate impact.

"On a country-to-country basis each of these countries has a different government setup and each of the destinations has certain characteristics and infrastructure, so it's not easy to say how they will deal," said Stuart Cottrell, an assistant professor of global tourism.

Cottrell believes it will take at least a year to a year and a half before these countries could return to normal economic activity. For instance, the Thailand island of Phuket will recover somewhat but will still have a lot fewer visitors who go there, Cottrell said.

One aspect of the tourism industry that will come about from the devastation is the emergence and growing interest in "dark tourism."

"Dark tourism" is when people visit certain areas that have been affected or ravaged, or areas that have been known to be places of suffering and death. Cottrell said examples of "dark tourism" include the crash site where Princess Diana died, the concentration camps of the Holocaust and O.J. Simpson's home.

"Over a period of time a certain number of visitors will visit these affected areas and in these areas there will be a slight increase in 'dark tourism,'" Cottrell said.

Economic Challenges

The devastated countries also are facing economic challenges and certain industries are being forced to start over.

Steve Davies, a professor in the department of agricultural and resource economics, said the coastlines of certain countries were hurt badly and some destroyed. The affected industries include: a lot of dams, shrimp hatcheries and drying ponds for salt and rice paddies. Davies believes if enough money is invested and labor-intensive methods are undertaken these areas and industries can be rebuilt.

"Rebuilding might be shorter than people think, but psychologically the recovery will be a long time," Davies said. "If they get enough aid and they can get back to work, the economy can get going again sooner rather than later."

Relief Efforts

Certain organizations around town are doing numerous things to help raise money and collect items that countries are in dire need of right now, such food and clothing.

The American Red Cross Centennial Chapter, which consists of the 12 northern counties of Colorado with its headquarters in Fort Collins, has several activities on its agenda to help out with the tsunami relief.

"We are providing water purification and emergency food, shelter and clothing," said Ken Williams, chief executive officer of the Centennial Chapter.

The American Red Cross has pledged $400 million for short-term and long-term aid, while the Centennial Chapter has raised around $200,000 so far, Williams said.

The activities held to help in the aftermath of the tsunami include a concert in Loveland Sunday at the Rialto Theater, 228 E. Fourth St. Another concert Feb. 13 at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, 417 W. Magnolia St., will feature jazz and rhythm and blues acts.

Other activities and events taking place include bake sales and collection canisters, and last week the Old Town merchants gave a portion of their sales to tsunami relief, Williams said.

The Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity is taking donations to help build homes and shelters for the now homeless as well as for damaged homes.

Habitat for Humanity has a presence in six of the affected countries – Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh – and is taking donations so people can have safe and decent housing once again.

Williams also said the local high schools are holding fund-raisers and restaurants around town are donating part of their day's profits to help the relief effort.

One of the restaurants in Fort Collins helping the tsunami relief effort is Sri Thai, 950 S. Taft Hill Road. The restaurant will host a benefit lunch and dinner Sunday. All proceeds will go toward helping rebuild homes and the restaurant will be taking any additional donations, too, said Somsakul Aust, the restaurant's manager.

"This disaster really touched people," Williams said. "All of these activities are going on because people really care."

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