Tsunami - Missing Americans
By 12 January 2005 US authorities had been unable to account for 4759 inquiries about Americans missing in Southern Asia. As of 5 p.m. Friday 07 January 2005 US authorities had been unable to account for 1,809 inquiries about Americans missing in Southern Asia [down from 2,150 at the start of the day]. A total of 20 Americans are missing and presumed dead, with a total of 17 the confirmed American deaths.
Since 26 December 2004 the State Department had received about 20,000 inquiries about loved ones or acquaintances who people have believed may or may not be in the region, or inquires about areas affected by the tsunami. By 03 January 2004 the US Government had been able to satisfactorily respond to three quarters of those inquiries, or about 15,000. That left about 5,000 inquiries that the government had not been able to resolve. By 05 January 2005 there were still 3,500 cases that had not been resolved.
By 06 January 2005 State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said US authorities had answered all but 2,500 of the 24,000 inquiries about Americans missing in Southern Asia. By comparison, the list of missing after the September 11th terrrorist attacks peaked at nearly 7,000, and was eventually reduced to 3,016.
A diplomat who spoke to reporters on 03 January 2005 said officials involved in the accounting process do not believe that the number of Americans who died in the disaster will be in the thousands. He said the conclusion was based on progress being made in narrowing the list of those still unaccounted for, and the fact that the State Department has been receiving relatively few desperate or frantic calls from families about missing relatives. But in fact the State Department had received about 20,000 such calls, and had over 5,000 that remained unresolved.
On 05 January the US added another 20 to the list of Americans presumed dead, raising the official American death toll to 36. The Swedes and the Germans are resigned to the fact that literally hundreds and hundreds of their countrymen have died in the tsunami. At least 60 Germans were confirmed dead, with another 1,000 missing, while Sweden has confirmed 52 deaths the number of missing variously reported from 700 to over 2300 [down from an initial estimates as high as 3,500]. As of 06 January there were 52 confirmed deaths, with 702 Swedes "confirmed missing" [missing and known to have been in affected areas] and 1,201 "unconfirmed missing" [missing but unknown whether they were in areas hit by the tsunami].
As of 03 January more than 2,900 Swedes, 1,100 South Africans and 1,000 Germans were unaccounted for by one estimate. The total number of missing Germans declined on 04 January after over 100 people returning home. By 05 January The number of Danes missing fell to 69 from 275, although another 100 people who could have been in the area have still to be traced, so there are potentially still about 200 Danes missing. A total of 889 South Africans had not contacted their families as of 05 January, seven were officially classified as missing. On 03 January nearly 1,400 Norwegians were believed to be missing, but the Justice Ministry released a list that initially contained 275 names of people registered as missing. By 05 January the official total for Norwegians missing was 81.
As of March 9, 2005, the American count was 34 dead, 135 missing.
Among the foreign victims of the disaster were many European tourists enjoying a winter sunshine break from the northern winter at seaside resorts. As of 08 April 2005 the total included 544 Swedish nationals, of whom 341 have been identified, 301 Germans, with an estimated 276 still missing, 95 French holidaymakers, 95 from Britain with a further 74 still unaccounted for, 49 Austrians and 54 missing, 39 Swiss along with 87 still unaccounted for, 36 Danes and 10 missing, as well as 25 Dutch with up to 15 more missing. In addition, 21 Australians are confirmed dead and six are missing, along with 21 Hong Kong citizens and a further 19 unaccounted for and 15 Canadians as well as seven missing.
With possibly more than 2,000 Americans missing, the 2004 Tsunami would have ranked among the four worst American natural disasters, the others being the 1900 Gavelston hurricane [6,000 killed], the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire [2,000-3,000 killed], and the 1889 Johnstown Flood [2,200 killed]. Prior to the year 2004, only these three other events were on the short list of natural disasters that had killed more than a thousand Americans. The 2004 Tsunami may join this short list, even thought the Americans did not die in America.
On September 8, 1900, the greatest natural disaster to ever strike the United States occurred at Galveston, Texas. In the early evening hours of September 8, a hurricane came ashore at Galveston bringing with it a great storm surge that inundated most of Galveston Island and the city of Galveston. As a result, much of the city was destroyed and at least 6,000 people were killed in a few hours time. Galveston Island was a sand island about thirty miles in length and one and one-half to three miles in width. The course of the island is southwest to northeast, parallel with the southeast coast of the State. The City of Galveston is located on the east end of the island. Storm warnings were timely and received a wide distribution not only in Galveston but throughout the coast region. Warning messages were received from the Central Office at Washington on September 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. September 9, 1900, revealed one of the most horrible sights that ever a civilized people looked upon. About three thousand homes, nearly half the residence portion of Galveston, had been completely swept out of existence, and probably more than six thousand persons had passed from life to death during that dreadful night.
The San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906 ranks as one of the most significant earthquakes of all time. At almost precisely 5:12 a.m., local time, a foreshock occurred with sufficient force to be felt widely throughout the San Francisco Bay area. The great earthquake broke loose some 20 to 25 seconds later, with an epicenter near San Francisco. Violent shocks punctuated the strong shaking which lasted some 45 to 60 seconds. The earthquake was felt from southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and inland as far as central Nevada. The highest Modified Mercalli Intensities (MMI's) of VII to IX paralleled the length of the rupture, extending as far as 80 kilometers inland from the fault trace. In the public's mind, this earthquake is perhaps remembered most for the fire it spawned in San Francisco, giving it the somewhat misleading appellation of the "San Francisco earthquake". Shaking damage, however, was equally severe in many other places along the fault rupture. The frequently quoted value of 700 deaths caused by the earthquake and fire is now believed to underestimate the total loss of life by a factor of 3 or 4.
There was no larger news story in the latter nineteenth century after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln than the 1889 Johnstown Flood. The story of the Johnstown Flood has everything to interest the modern mind: a wealthy resort, an intense storm, an unfortunate failure of a dam, the destruction of a working class city, and an inspiring relief effort. The rain continued as men worked tirelessly to prevent the old South Fork Dam from breaking. Elias Unger, the president of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, was hoping that the people in Johnstown were heeding the telegraph warnings sent earlier, which said that the dam might go. When it finally happened, at 3:10 P.M., May 31, 1889, an era of the Conemaugh Valley's history ended, and another era started. Over 2,209 people died on that tragic Friday, and thousands more were injured in one of the worst disasters in our Nation's history.