Over the past few weeks, the Asia-Pacific region has seen natural disasters of epic proportions. There have been typhoons, tsunamis and earthquakes; the death toll climbing higher each day. Entire villages have seemingly been wiped out.

The media coverage of the unfolding events has, however, been overwhelming. The Australian media predictably focused on the local angle, but which earthquake or tsunami happened first, where and why? And are they all connected?

Crikey pulled together a neat timeline:

  • Saturday, 26 September, 2009, Philippines — The main Philippines island of Luzon was battered by Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana), which brought winds of 100kph and 13.5 inches of rain in six hours. The devastation caused by Ondoy can be seen in YouTube videos and web photos. The typhoon also affected parts of Vietnam.
  • Tuesday, September 29, 2009, Samoa — An earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale struck midway between Samoa and American Samoa at 3.48 AEST. The earthquake triggered a massive tsunami , wreaking devastation in Samoa, American Samoa, and reaching Tonga and New Zealand.
  • Wednesday, September 30, 2009. Samoa — Another earthquake rocked the Samoan Islands Wednesday, a day after the 8.3 magnitude earthquake that generated the tsunami. The second quake, a 5.5 magnitude, occurred at 6:13 p.m. Wednesday evening. The epicenter was located 121 miles from the city of Apia, Samoa and was about 6 miles deep in the Pacific Ocean. It didn’t trigger a tsunami warning.
  • Wednesday, September 30, 2009, Indonesia — An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale hit Western Indonesia, triggering landslides and crumbling buildings. The quake originated on the same fault line which generated the 2004 Asian Tsunami.
  • Thursday, October 1, 2009, Indonesia – Another quake shakes Western Indonesia, causing additional damage to the region rocked by Wednesday’s quake. The quake was felt in Jakarta, 940km from where it hit in Padang, and in Singapore and Malaysia.
  • Saturday, October 3, 2009, Philippines – Typhoon Parma hits the north-eastern tip of Luzon, the second tropical storm in eight days.
  • Sunday, October 4, 2009, Taiwan – Typhoon Parma approaches Taiwan, with heavy rainfall in southern and southeast regions expected. The Taiwanese government has implemented anti-typhoon measures and military evacuations of mountain villages have taken place.

So are these devastating events linked to one another?

There has been speculation that the earthquakes in Samoa and Indonesia are related due to the geographical proximity of the countries. Experts, however, have concluded that the timing of the two quakes was coincidental.

What’s the current death toll?

The Independent reports that in Indonesia the government has confirmed the death toll at 715 and more than 3,000 people are reported missing. There are fears that the number of those killed could rise to 1,300 as the full extent of the damage in rural areas becomes clear where whole villages have been flattened by landslides.

The United Nations said in a report that more than 1.1 million people live in the 10 quake-hit districts, 10,000 houses have collapsed, 19 public facilities were badly damaged, 50 schools destroyed and more than 80 mosques severely damaged.

The Australian reports that the total number of people confirmed or feared dead in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga reached at least 180 yesterday, but officials have warned that the toll will rise.

View our Crikey Clarifier archive

Peter Fray

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