mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author


At The Epicenter


Welcome to Spotlight, Link TV’s weekly series of investigative reports from
around the world. I’m Mark Hertsgaard in San Francisco, and this episode the
spotlight is on the tsunami of 2004.


On December 26 of that year, the planet’s most powerful earthquake in four
decades erupted beneath the Indian Ocean. The epicenter was off the coast of
Indonesia. But the gigantic wave the quake unleashed traveled thousands of
miles, spreading death and destruction as far away as Sri Lanka, India, even

Total deaths of the 2004 tsunami were estimated at 220,000. Another 1.5
million people were left homeless. By far the greatest devastation was in
Indonesia — specifically, Aceh province, which accounted for approximately
two thirds of the global death toll.

A horrified world responded quickly, pledging more than $5 billion in relief
aid. But as the documentary you’re about to see makes clear, many victims
found it very difficult to benefit from that generosity.

We’ll be back afterwards with an update. For now, from the BBC in Great
Britain, here is, At The Epicenter, on Link TV, your connection to the


You’re watching Spotlight on Link TV. I’m Mark Hertsgaard.

Earthquakes and tsunamis are natural disasters. Humans cannot prevent them,
but we can prepare for them and thereby reduce their impact. For example, in
May 2006 30 Pacific nations tested a tsunami early warning system and
concluded that it had worked fairly well or did it? Two months later, another
tsunami struck Indonesia and left over 500 people dead and 45,000 homeless.
The government admitted its warning system was not yet operational but pledged
it would be by mid-2008.

Nature provides its own tsunami defenses, if it’s allowed to. Mangrove trees,
which dot many tropical coastlines, absorb 70 to 90 percent of a wave’s force.
A study by the World Conservation Union indicated that mangroves saved
thousands of lives in Sri Lanka during the 2004 tsunami. But, the study said,
mangroves are under severe threat, thanks to deforestation and unrestrained

If you want to find out more about these issues, check out the resources
listed at the end of this program. You can also find those resources at our
Following those listings you’ll see a clip from next
week’s program. Until then, this is Mark Hertsgaard in San Francisco for
Spotlight. Thanks for joining us.



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About Mark

Independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard is the author of seven books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden; HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth; and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. He has reported from twenty-five countries about politics, culture and the environment for leading outlets, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Mother Jones, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where is the environment correspondent. He lives in San Francisco.