Opinion: Disaster Draws the World Closer | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 02.01.2005
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Opinion: Disaster Draws the World Closer

The tsunamis that wreaked havoc from Indonesia to Sumatra on Dec. 26 have mobilized worldwide aid. But worries about one's own tourists must not overshadow the suffering of local people.


Aid must continue to flow after the catastrophe drops from headlines

As the death toll rises daily, the disaster in south Asia is truly global and its magnitude may be much worse than we can now estimate. Thousands of people remain missing and the threat looms that disease and epidemics will breakout.

But the world is closing ranks due to the dimension of this apocalypse. The wave of helpfulness stretches across the planet and provides comfort in the midst of nearly incomprehensible devastation.

Aid from Germany also came quickly. Crisis management on the part of the government worked without a hitch. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder made available €20 million ($27 million) in immediate aid and said he would lobby for a moratorium on debt owed by Indonesia and Somalia.

His call for donations and his words of commiseration are clear signs to the people in the region that Germany aims to do everything it can to help on-site. At the same time, the government is trying to bring German vacationers home with as little bureaucracy as possible.

Inscrutable complaints

Thus, it is all the more baffling that some German tourists complain about lost luggage and lack of attention from German travel companies. In the face of immeasurable suffering in the region, such egoistic behavior is absolutely cynical. Schröder was spot on when he pointed out that compared to the states affected by the flooding Germany is a "very, very rich country."

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Sri Lankan refugees scramble on a truck to receive supplies in Matara, south of Colombo, on Sunday.

Luckily, there are also grateful German vacationers who know to appreciate the generous help they have received from local people during these desperate times.

The German government will have to devote special attention to those German families that have lost parents, children or siblings. Hundreds of cases are still unresolved, and many people in Germany continue to fear for the lives of their relatives.

When the affected countries have again disappeared from the headlines, the aid that's now coming must continue to do so. For, it's indisputable that Europe is only showing so much sympathy because the vacation destinations of affluent European tourists have been affected.

But we Europeans, who have for years have spent our holidays there, also share responsibility for the region. One thing has become very clear due to the catastrophe: in the global village, we've all become neighbors.

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