In the zone with reporters
It is strange to travel with reporters. They are there to see and get the best story, not to give immediate help. What they do is vitally important, but it gave me an odd feeling in the face of such need for immediate help.
We are off to look and point and stare and marvel at Nature, naked in its fury. We are on the tour to see human misery, the eco-tour of desolation. We are going to visit the land of the dead.
- Personal Diary, November 6, 1998
All the bridges along the route had been washed out and the military had thrown up provisional bridges to allow passage. There were line ups for kilometres of trucks and cars, carrying aid and merchandise, trying to get in and to get out. One truck driver, at the front of the first line, had been waiting since seven the morning before. Beside the mass of vehicles, the destruction around the riverbeds was humbling. Roads dropped off into nothing. If parts of bridges did exist, they were jammed full of wrecked trees. Houses that had once lined the rivers were gone or half buried in mud. People were digging to try to find the remains of their families.
We went to a school that had been converted into a shelter and to a hospital filled with people injured by the mudslides and flooding. We talked to people who had survived but now had nothing – children who had watched their families swept away. In the hospital, people sat by the badly wounded and waved cloths over them to keep the flies away. What struck me was the calmness with which they recounted their stories. One young woman waiting for the television crews to leave a hospital room so she could visit her sister, told what had just happened and in the same tone told about how her father was killed in