shaky perspective

Tsunami death toll could top 60,000

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (CNN) – The “putrid stench of the dead” hung heavily Tuesday over Banda Aceh as officials slowly came to grips with the devastation caused by a massive underwater earthquake and the equally massive tsunami that followed it.

More than two days after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the westernmost portion of Indonesia’s northern Sumatra Island, the official death toll stands at over 33,000.

But that number could be deceiving. Officials could not reach some remote areas, like Indonesia’s Aceh province, India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Maldives, until Tuesday, and once there, they found scenes much worse than they imagined.

“The center of Banda Aceh has been absolutely devastated,” said CNN’s Mike Chinoy from the capital of Aceh province. “There are still bodies lying in the street.” [keep reading]

For comparison’s sake, the largest recorded earthquake was in Chile in 1960: 9.5.

For those of us who have made casual comments about “the next big one” bursting the real-estate bubble, the great San Francisco quake of 1906 was an 8.3. The Loma Prieta quake of 1989 was a 7.1.

Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

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