a little east of reality

Thursday, September 01, 2005

shoot them on sight

No power, no drinking water, dwindling food supplies. 80 percent of the city under water, 20 feet deep in some places.
There are dead bodies floating in some of the water. The rescuers would basically push them aside as they were trying to save individuals.
Frustration rising among people who now find themselves refugees in their own city. Thousands of people being housed in the Superdome, toilets overflowing, no air conditioning to provide relief from 90-degree heat. Charity Hospital no longer functioning and being evacuated.

And in amongst all of this utter ruin and despair, hundreds of people are looting stores. The stark selfishness of it just floors me. Dead bodies floating in 20 ft of water in 90 degree heat...thousands of people homeless and hungry...and a small pack of idiots (who could be helping other people; even saving lives) is out hoping to score a big screen TV or two. Police resources, which could be utilised in search and rescue, are being diverted to scatter looters and try to restore order.

Compare that to this report on volunteers helping to identify bodies in Thailand after the tsunami:

Canadian Scott Murray helped unload corpses, already encased in body bags, from Thai army trucks after they had been discovered by search teams in Khao Lak, the worst-hit area of Phang Nga province about 40 miles north of Phuket.

"The trucks would back in with the bodies, and then we'd jump up on the back of the trucks, and put down the truck's gate, and then physically take the body bags and put them on stretchers," he said. "Forensic teams would try to see if they could identify them based on a list of missing people, and identification marks, that they had from families and friends," he said.

About 100 mostly foreign volunteers were assisting Thai and international personnel at the temple. Conveying so many bodies amid such terrible scenes, strongly affected Mr. Murray.

"They were so grotesque. I think it is different than someone dying in your arms, or covered in blood, or the immediacy of death. These people had been dead for four or five days," he said.

"Even though rigor mortis had set in, we were handling them so delicately. To me, the final indignity would have been to drop these people...even though they were dead -- and I saw this from almost everybody -- the care, and the consideration that everybody was using in handling these people made sure that even though they had suffered this horrible death, we were going to try to take care of them after their death," he said.

Mr. Murray is an editor who has been based in the Thai capital, Bangkok, for the past 12 years. He said he came to the tsunami-hit coast to report "feel-good" stories for Phuket Magazine, to raise reader's spirits.

"But the more I drove around, the more I found there were very, very few feel-good stories that I could find," he said.

"I just wanted to do something positive, and the best that I could do was to help people identify the victims and speed up the process."

I'm trying to think of a reason that those looters shouldn't be shot on sight for causing havoc and wasting the valuable time and resources of the emergency services in the middle of a heartbreaking tragedy. No luck finding one so far.

We can't control a natural disaster, but we sure as hell can control our response to it.