Accessibility links

Natural Disasters, Terrorism and Political Change – a Look Back at 2005


Nature's fury -- from ravaged Indian Ocean coastlines to devastated South Asian mountain villages -- brought tragedy and united the world in recovery efforts in 2005.

As the year began, survivors of the massive Indian Ocean tsunami picked through the shattered landscape of their seaside communities. More than 200,000 people were dead, thousands more missing and the livelihoods of millions had been swept out to sea.

Thousands of international aid workers poured into the region providing food, water and shelter and preventing the feared disease outbreaks among survivors. Led by the United Nations, more than three dozen countries sent assistance, while an unprecedented outpouring of compassion from millions of people around the world brought in millions of dollars in donations.

Half a world away, the Western Hemisphere witnessed the busiest and most destructive hurricane season on record. Several storms pounded Central America, Mexico and the United States, none more devastating than Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast killing more than a thousand people and leaving the city of New Orleans flooded and virtually uninhabitable.

The images of exhausted victims trapped without food and water and the slow response left many around the world wondering how it could happen to an American city.

With rebuilding expected to take years at a cost likely to make this the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history, city officials fear many of New Orleans' more than 500,000 residents will never return.

Staying alive is all that matters for the three million people left homeless by an October earthquake that leveled parts of South Asia. The strongest quake to rock Pakistan in more than a century left over 70,000 people dead and thousands more badly injured across South Asia.

Unlike the tsunami, aid and donations have trickled in with hundreds of the severely injured in isolated villages receiving no medical care for weeks in what has been described as one of the most complex relief operations ever mounted.

Other parts of the world were hit by terrorism, including Egypt, Russia and Jordan.

On the morning of July 7th, coordinated attacks hit London's transport system. Three bombs on London Underground trains exploded within 50 seconds of each other during the morning rush hour. A fourth bomb exploded nearly an hour later onboard a double-decker bus. Fifty-six people died in the attacks with another 700 injured in the deadliest bombing in London since the end of World War II.

A terror attack in Lebanon led to a major political shift in the Middle East. The February blast killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 20 others. Blame for Mr. Hariri's assassination quickly focused on Syria, an allegation later supported by a United Nations investigation. This sparked a wave of protests in Beirut and calls for the withdrawal of Syria forces from the country. Under international pressure, Damascus withdrew the last of its troops from Lebanon in April, ending a presence dating back three decades.

Next door, the Israeli flag was lowered over Gaza in 2005 ending 38 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Nearly 9,000 Jewish settlers were removed from their homes in Gaza and the West Bank in an attempt by the Israeli government to reinvigorate the peace process.

The biggest news in the Middle East continued to come out of Iraq where, despite continued violence, voters elected a transitional National Assembly charged with drafting a permanent constitution. Despite much political wrangling and several setbacks, the Iraqi people overwhelming approved the document in an October referendum. Iraq's yearlong political process ends In December with the election of a permanent National Assembly.

Despite political developments in Iraq, the insurgent attacks and a rising death toll hurt President George W. Bush's popularity in 2005. After winning reelection the year before, Mr. Bush talked of using political capital. As the year ends, that capital appears to be spent. Mounting disenchantment with the war, the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the indictment of a top White House advisor and scandals involving leaders of his Republican Party have left Mr. Bush with the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, jeopardizing his second term agenda.

Change came to the Vatican in 2005 with the death of Pope John Paul the second, a crusader for human rights and peace who became one of the most significant figures of the 20th century. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict the Sixteenth, and at 78, the oldest Pope chosen in nearly three centuries.

XS
SM
MD
LG