Dear friend and colleague Stephanie is working in Asuncion, Paraguay, this summer. Her recent post on the tragic supermarket fire helped give me a sense of the magnitude of this disaster in a sleepy country of 5.5 million. As she says:
Asuncin is a city of just around a million people, and all of Paraguay has only 5 1/2 million. For 400 to die in one single catastrophe is nearly unheard of, aside from the infamous wars they’ve held with neighbors Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. So it’s not such a surprise to have encountered the overwhelming shock and sadness felt by this entire country. I sat watching the news all night long, fielding phone calls from friends who were telling me about colleagues and neighbors’ children who were killed or badly burned. One woman’s office IT guy had 3rd degree burns on his hands and face and was waiting to hear word of his girlfriend’s status, having suffered burns over 86% of her body. Everyone knew someone in the fire, and everyone was in mourning.