At the headquarters of Catholic Relief Services here, the situation reports keep coming in: shelters housing 125,000 people have opened in India. Sri Lanka is getting $1 million worth of cooking kits, fuel cans and soap. In Indonesia, the first supplies should reach the battered coast by the weekend.
For nearly 61 years, Catholic Relief has responded to floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and droughts. Once again, in this latest catastrophe, tallying of needs and assignment of tasks have proceeded at a steady pace this week. But even the charity's seasoned executives have found the misfortune in southern Asia almost overwhelming.
"It is really unbelievable, the amount of devastation," Mark Pierce, a staff member calling in from Thailand, told a roomful of colleagues in Baltimore on Wednesday. "It is beyond what we have experienced in any other country. It is just beyond imagination, seeing what I am seeing. It is beyond belief."