Sea of Sorrow

The world suffers an epic tragedy as a tsunami spreads death across Asia. An on-the-scene look at how it happened--and whether the carnage could have been avoided

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For those who were anywhere near the areas wrecked by the earthquake and tsunami, politics was the last thing on their mind. What was left was a humbling understanding of the awesome power of nature as the aching individual human tragedy played itself out. A Swedish man begged a Phuket hotel to let him store the coffins of his two dead children in its kitchen refrigerator. In a Buddhist temple in Bang Muang, Thailand, 180 corpses lay beneath a shelter, with an additional 80 in coffins, rigor mortis making their arms stretch out beseechingly. Fifteen hundred miles away, they were setting the fires again in Tamil Nadu. Fueled by diesel oil, the flames were accompanied by the sound of popping skulls and stomachs. Subash, 25, watched. He, his brother and his mother, he said, were the only ones of a household of 14 to survive, climbing onto a roof terrace and forced to listen as their relatives screamed for help and drowned inside their house. "We buried and burned 300 yesterday," he said, "and 500 today." The family members who survived plan to leave the coast forever. "Since my childhood, I've known nothing more closely than the sea," Subash says. "Now I hate it." --With reporting by Aravind Adiga/Kahawa; John Dickerson/ Washington; Ilya Garger, Neil Gough and Hanna Kite/ Hong Kong; Robert Horn/ Bangkok; Zamira Loebis/ Banda Aceh; Andrew Marshall/Khao Lak; Alex Perry/ Tamil Nadu; Ulla Plon/ Copenhagen; Sonja Steptoe/ Los Angeles; Aatish Taseer/ London; and Jason Tedjasukmana/ Jakarta


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