Inside the newsroom: Are we numb to disasters?

SALT LAKE CITY — The conversations this week in the newsroom were about disasters. As a reporting staff, we did very little about landslides in Colombia in April, monsoons in Sri Lanka in May, and horrible floods during the summer in India and Bangladesh. All are far from home, but significant.

We twice sent reporting teams to Texas to report on Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, sent reporters to Puerto Rico and Florida for Hurricane Irma coverage (before Hurricane Maria darkened the island) and have yet to go to Mexico to report on conditions following the 7.1 magnitude earthquake earlier this month.

The conversation we had centered on what’s our role? We are a Salt Lake-based news organization, but we have state, national and international reach. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns this paper, has a worldwide membership. Its church leaders, both from Salt Lake City and from each of these countries, support and minister to those in need of help — both church members and those not of the faith.

We want to tell those stories of recovery, of ministry, of help, of trials. We want to tell the stories of Utahns rushing to the aid of others, including search and rescue teams, military teams, medical volunteers, LDS Helping Hands and the many efforts of all who rally to help. In short, we use every resource we can to bring you information and provide credible information about where and how you can help.

Here’s what’s happened around the world:

Colombia, April: A huge landslide of mud and rocks in the southern city of Mocoa destroyed dozens of homes and left more than 250 people dead and another 200-plus injured. Among the victims were 62 children. The slide was attributed to heavy rains.

Sri Lanka, May. At least 91 people died and more than 100 went missing after heavy rains from monsoon season hit the region. According to NPR swollen rivers impacted more than 61,000 people.

Bangladesh, India and Nepal, summer. Remarkable human suffering continues in Asia, where the New York Times reports that more than 1,000 people have died in floods, and at least 41 million people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been directly affected by weekslong flooding and landslides.

Sierra Leone, mid-August. About 500 people died, including 150 children from mudslides in this African nation. CNN reported that 20,000 people were displaced.

Hurricane Harvey, August. Hurricane Harvey and…

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