Jakarta – Many countries around the world have once again offered to helpIndonesia- which has yet torecover from the Dec 26 tsunami catastrophe -after a huge earthquake rocked an island off northwestIndonesia.More than 500 people have been confirmed killed in the quake which occurred on the night of March 28, but up to 1,000 are feared dead.
SingaporeandAustraliawere among the first to send relief teams to theislandofNias, which bore the brunt of the 8.7 magnitude quake that triggered tsunami warnings and caused panic across theIndian Ocean.
InWashington,USPresident George W Bush, who had been criticised for his slow response following the Dec 26 tsunami tragedy, was quick to react this time.
“Our officials have offered initial assistance, and are moving quickly to gather information to determine what additional relief is needed," he said on March 29.
China's government said it would donate US$500,000 in cash toIndonesia, while its Red Cross pledged US$300,000. The European Union's executive commission said it had sent an assessment team to the affected area and would offer financial aid if needed. Other countries, such asMalaysia,Canada,Britain,GermanyandNew Zealand, had also expressed their readiness to help.
AsIndonesiaand its neighbours grapple with the possibility of more aftershocks and even another major earthquake, a commentator noted that the first “big one” - the Dec 26 tsunami - had taught the region and theUnited Statesseveral lessons.
Writing inMalaysia'sNew Straits Times, Mr Michael Vatikiotis noted that for theUS, the tsunami drove home something that was forgotten in the aftermath of 911 and the rush to war inIraq: That America has the capacity to wield soft power with great effect.
“Before the tsunami, the majority of Indonesians viewed Americans darkly. Now, far fewer do and that’s because the Marines hit the beaches of Aceh with water and medicine,” wrote Mr Vatikiotis, a visiting research fellow at theInstituteofSoutheast Asian StudiesinSingapore.
For Asean, the role played bySingaporein helping the tsunami victims in Aceh has “forever altered the regional perceptions of the island republic”.
“Before the tsunami, people inMalaysiaandIndonesiawondered why theSingaporearmed forces needed to be so potently armed and equipped. Now that this equipment has been used so effectively for humanitarian purposes in a neighbouring country, the whole region will start to think about joint exercises to deal with humanitarian disasters,” Mr Vatikiotis said.
* World offers condolences, relief after new Indonesia quake (The Jakarta Post, March 31)
* Ripple effect of the tsunami (New Straits Times, March 31)