Philippines + 6 more

Asia: Pick of the year 2011

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BANGKOK, 27 December 2011 (IRIN) - Volcanic flooding (rain mixed with lava) greeted us at the start of 2011 in Indonesia and we wrapped up the year with billions of cubic metres of water bearing down on Thailand’s capital, and the southern Philippines caught off-guard by storms, which killed more than 1,000 in December.

In between, IRIN’s editors pushed the boundaries of disaster preparedness vocabulary to describe the constant vigilance and resilience required of people who have lived through one of the region’s most costly years for disaster relief.

“Gearing up”, “bracing for” and “preparing” - some agencies and residents had time to stock medicines, evacuate danger zones and seek safer ground.

But there were also the ones who did not make it, whose families posted announcements searching for them in vain - and are still waiting.

The 11 March earthquake and tsunami which hit the Tohoku region along the Pacific coast of Japan was the fourth largest earthquake recorded globally and the largest in Japan’s history.

The subsequent tsunami resulted in 15,839 dead and another 3,642 missing or unaccounted for as of 17 November - and set off a chorus of “are we prepared?” in countries in and along the Pacific’s so called Ring of Fire.

In the increasingly rare moments when we were not covering a natural disaster, we tracked the quest for clean water from mud balls to magic tree seeds; considered the price of goodwill unchecked; analyzed the role of blame in charitable giving; and consulted scientists tracking hotspots of anti-malarial drug resistance.

Meanwhile, in Myanmar, donors and the political opposition cautiously celebrated the government’s pledges of reform, as analysts highlighted challenges, including sporadic violence in Kachin State, where only recently aid groups have gained access, albeit limited.

In the Philippines, peace inched forward between spasms of violence and disaster for Mindanao, while in Sri Lanka a decades-long civil war - declared over in May 2009 - has left questions about reparations, accountability and reconciliation.

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