Tropical cyclone Pam struck the island nation of Vanuatu dead on, only a few hours ago, and it is shaping up to be one of the biggest journalistic disasters in many years.
" 'Six known dead' - that's been the headline for over 24 hours! Where are the bodies? How can we keep the paying audience interested in a dead headline- where the photos of lines of body bags- turn out to be lines of sleeping bags, not corpses?!?" said "Katastrophe Kate", the globe-trotting specialist for Rooters SNews Service. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/13/asia/cyclone-pam-vanuatu/)
"It's really horrifying- we managed to milk a couple of "OMG it's all gone!" statements from a few NGO nerds huddled in hotels; but all the photos and video feeds are showing exactly the opposite! It's looking like a minor thunderstorm passed through. We just don't know how long we can keep up the pretense that this is a big deal.
"Luckily, very few of our viewers know that original local architecture is designed - from thousands of years of experience- to blow over in heavy winds, and then be rebuilt from the same materials, in a matter of days. And Vanuatu is one of the few places left where the local people still have the skills to do this. Sure, there will be a few deaths; but nothing like the 6,000 dead from Typhoon Whatsit in the Philippines a while back. And we're getting a few pics of "halfway" buildings that look messy- homes that are part native design, with "modern" bits that blew down tacked on; but the darn people keep smiling; and it's just a bit hard to sell "this poor man now has nowhere to live!" - when he's sitting on a bench under a nice roof...
"Pam is just not generating the bodies and images we need- waving palm fronds are great for a couple hours, but then we need some really good smashed up stuff; and so far, we're not getting it. The downtown areas- were pretty clearly actually built to survive typhoon winds- a couple broken windows and one piece of roofing blowing around is just not - enough.
"Thank god we can depend on the John Frum guys for really good quotes designed to bring in "relief" flights. But, there is a limit to how far that can stretch. It's a word no one wants to hear- but we're becoming seriously afraid that this disaster is just going to prove- unsustainable.
"As of today, this is shaping up to be one of the biggest disaster failures in recent history. Thank god- our audience is easily distracted from reality collapses- all we need is one good new cat video; and they'll forget the whole thing. Kat-ass Kate, reporting too live, from Port Vila; most of which is still here, dammit."
(Ok, not trying to make fun of Vanuatu, in any way, or be skeptical about their need for help after what was definitely a bad cyclone. But. My guess is, once the information comes in from the "remote" islands- yes, their houses may have blown down- as they are designed to do; but I'm betting their elders- who are still in place- probably got most of the people into a safe place, known to them for centuries at least, to wait out the wind. We'll see. Fingers crossed, and I'm betting on the elders. And meanwhile; Tuvalu and Kiribati- nations with no mountains to provide rainwater streams and shelter- have also been hit by Pam. Harm there could be much, much larger. We hope and pray not.)