Alex Grech's blog

Friday, December 31, 2004

On the verge of the New Year

Or more like 'at the foot of the cliff'.. or 'on the edge of the chasm'.

The body count in Asia is more like 110,000 people and counting, though we'll never know. And more than a million people have had their lives shattered by what happened.

Max has got lost in the tragedy of numbers and stopped watching TV. He logs on to the BBC site, watches the body count, switches to a Football site, reads about millionaires being lined up for transfers in the January transfer window, shops for food essentials, thinks, tries not to think. Liz has gone down with a bad bout of gastric 'flu and threw up in the garden. Jacob runs around like a clockwork orange, oblivioius of his mother's illness. In the end, Max gives up and administers the only drug at hand, the new Pinocchio DVD. Jacob is now perched on his blue potty, glued to the 1940's classic.

Elsewhere, the remnants of Max's friends will gather for their usual piss up and singalong. Max's sister has bought herself a furry top. Max's Dad has been roped in as babysitter. And the new year will be seen in to the traditional flurry of merry-making.

Max cannot stop thinking of mass graves and bodies caked up, like bits of plaster in an unsound structure.

Jonathan Head of the BBC in Banda Aceh, Indonesia: Water is the most critical problem here. The entire water supply has been contaminated - you can't imagine how they could clean it up as the number of bodies is just overwhelming.

I've just come from Thailand where it was pretty shocking but nothing compares to the health problems presented here by the thousands and thousands of bodies and the inability of the authorities and the survivors to deal with it. They are digging mass graves now but the number littered around is just staggering.

The entire town - where it hasn't been levelled - is covered in a sea of filthy mud with bodies and bits of rubble stuck in it. I think the authorities are going to have to think about moving people out because it's just uninhabitable.

There aren't the resources to clean up a mess this staggeringly big - the place looks as though a giant has picked it up, shaken it, torn it to pieces and then thrown this layer of mud, rubble and bodies across it.

All the people I've spoken to here say there is no more Banda Aceh. They're packing their bags and leaving whatever way they can.

On another day, another planet, this space would have been filled by lines of hope. Max, instead, thinks that the only appropriate blog, right now, is silence. And some stoic resolve.

To survive. Into the new year.

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