After a quick scan of The New York Times online, I was so struck by a quote in Amy Waldman's story
on Sunday's earthquake-driven tsunami that I decided to save links to
it and other tsunami stories to show to my students... if the Web links
haven't expired when we discuss complex stories, quotes and endings.
... The water came with no warning, said S. Muttukumar, a fisherman.
see the sea come forward," he said, describing how he ran and then swam
from the 40-foot wave, grabbing onto catamarans for life support.
"Everybody was running, but God saves little."
That was the last paragraph before the "jump" to a second page. The
quote offers such a sense of "closure" that for a moment I thought it
was the end of the whole story. There was more, eventually reaching an
ending that was less poetic, but conveyed the scope of the disaster:
But even without further calamity, the devastation will take weeks
to unfold and years to repair. Officials in some areas expressed
concern that saline water could contaminate drinking water and ruin
arable land. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless, crowded into
unsanitary temporary shelters, and bodies are likely to wash up for
The BBC's ending to the main page of a multi-part Web report is more of an "inverted pyramid" exit, tapering off into background details:
Sunday's tremor - the fifth strongest since 1900 - had a
particularly widespread effect because it seems to have taken place
just below the surface of the ocean, analysts say.
Experts say tsunamis generated by earthquakes can travel at up to 500km/h.
The Washington Post story, the work of five staff writers and correspondents, finished with summaries of reports from the fringe of the tsunami's reach:
Severe flooding also struck the Seychelles, a string of islands off the
east coast of Africa. A six-foot ocean surge disrupted power to
hundreds of homes and abnormally high tides repeatedly littered the
airport runway with fish, forcing firefighters to hose down the
airfield between flights.
The Chicago Tribune today went with the Associated Press report, which also closed with background and an answer to the "could this have been prevented?" question:
Tsunamis as large as Sunday's happen only a few times a
century. A tsunami is a series of traveling ocean waves generated by
geological disturbances near the ocean floor. With nothing to stop
them, the waves can race across the ocean like the crack of a bullwhip,
gaining momentum over thousands of miles.
The main Reuters story
right now finishes with bits and pieces juxtaposing resort tourists in
Thailand with religious pilgrims in India, then offering sympathy from
Iran, and a reminder of another disaster a year ago:
tsunami warning system was started in 1965, after the Alaska quake, to
advise coastal communities of a potentially killer wave.
states include the major Pacific rim nations in North America, Asia and
South America. But because tsunamis are rare in the Indian Ocean, no
system exists there. Scientists said deaths would have been reduced if
On Phuket's Patong
beach, hotels and restaurants
were wrecked and speed boats rammed into buildings. Many foreign
tourists, some evacuated in bathing costumes, were left destitute,
possessions and passports lost to the sea.
Among the missing in India were 200 Hindu pilgrims who went for
a ritual sea bath. Hundreds scattered petals on the water and
sacrificed chickens to pray for their loved ones' return.
Iran Monday sent condolences to Asian countries struck by a
tsunami a year to the day after an earthquake killed 31,000 people in
the Iranian city of Bam.
I read that reference to the Iran earthquake right after reviewing "top
10 stories of the year" reports to prepare for class. Ironically,
neither the 2003 earthquake nor the 2004 tsunamis appear on such lists:
Both disasters fell a week after
the Associated Press and other commentators prepared their year-end
news retrospectives. For the record, here's what AP picked for 2003 and 2004.