The Moment

Muhammad Fitrah / Singgalang Newspaper / Reuters

A man carries an injured person in front of a collapsed university building during an evacuation after an earthquake hit Padang, on Indonesia's Sumatra island, Sept. 30, 2009

A natural disaster is almost always lethal and cruel. Yet its very randomness means, at least, that you can have as good a chance of escaping it as not — so long as you're lucky. Over just five days, however, it seemed as if the natural had become the unnatural, the random the purposeful. A tropical storm dumped a month's rain on the Philippines in 12 hours, inundating the capital Manila, killing hundreds and making tens of thousands homeless, before wreaking havoc in Vietnam, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian lands. Even as those countries were still mending, an earthquake...

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