Book 3 Chapter 23
At 0630 I had a mug of coffee and a plate of eggs, scrapple and one slice of toast with grape jelly, with another mug of fresh squeezed orange juice as per orders of the White House doctor. I put in enough ice cubes that the juice would be well diluted by the time I got around to drinking it all.
Troy was sitting with me; we were looking at satellite photographs of the island just moments before the ash cloud blocked the satellite view.
I had two sets of photographs; one from the CIA’s Space Eagle 4; a super top-secret intelligence asset that was on an orbit that carried it over Hawaii, southern United States and Mexico, North Africa, India, Southern China and Taiwan.
The other was from Land Sat 4. Both were close to the same, but the CIA ones were much clearer and there were more of them, plus I had live video. After, that Frank pulled from the receiver in Texas. Frank did not want the CIA’s released to the public; the agency did not want anyone to know the quality of the intelligence it gathered.
By the timestamp, at 1104 Honolulu time the earthquake hit. At the 1114 timestamp every building on the island was leveled including all the hotels, motels and tourist traps.
At 1120 a fissure could be seen opening up ten miles long and a mile from the shore. As the fissure opened, lava and ash were ejected from the exploding volcano. The land south of the fissure began its slide into the ocean.
Six thousand acres of resort hotels, motels, buildings, tourists and residents disappeared under the waters of the Pacific. Two large tourist ships tied to the longest dock in the world capsized and were sucked into the void left by the landslide, to be quickly covered with thousands of tons of water and lava. Moments later all visibility from the satellites was blocked by ash.
I had a list of questions for every agency that was to be on the video conference. With Troy and Connie’s help, the list soon became multiple pages long.
I reviewed all the orders I had given yesterday and all the attached reports that had come in overnight related to those orders. Together we began writing an outline for the news conference. I had an hour to interview the participants off screen and to allow them to gather the necessary information to answer my questions onscreen.
At 0845 the lottery chosen representatives for the medias were brought in. There were six of them; two were from radio, two from print media and two were from broadcast media. There was a link to the White House media room where the rest of the media was located.
Harry was here with a plate of donuts on the table and his assistant was at the White House. At 0900 I walked to the podium; yeah, we had one of those now with the Seal of the President on the front of it. Behind me were big flat screens with twenty individuals from various agencies waiting to answer the questions.
‘’At 1104 Honolulu time an 8.5 earthquake struck the Hawaiian Island of Molokai. The quake shook the island for sixteen minutes. On the center screen is a PowerPoint made from the satellite images. As you can see by the time stamp, not a building was left standing ten minutes after the quake started,’’ I said.
‘’At 1120 a fissure can be seen opening up on the south side of the island where all the resorts, motels and hotels were. That fissure was ten miles long and a mile back from the ocean,’’ I added.
‘’Six thousand acres of the island began a dreadful slide into the ocean. Moored to the docks were two cruise ships. The ‘Mystic Princess’ was reported to be carrying thirty-five hundred passengers and a crew of fifteen hundred. The ‘Jewel of the Pacific’ was carrying four thousand passengers and eighteen hundred crew,’’ I said.
‘’The photographs show both ships capsizing and sinking into the whirlpool created by the sinking section of land. The has been a tremendous loss of life. It will be weeks, months – possibly years before we get firm numbers, if ever,’’ I said.
‘’Director Robinson will give us an update on the FEMA response. Eric, you’re up,’ I said. Eric Roberson was Director of the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA was under his agency.
‘’From the outline of the response developed at the emergency management meeting yesterday afternoon, all the emergency disaster relief supplies in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have been flown to California. Thousands of cots, blankets, bottled water and emergency rations were loaded on assault landing ships and aircraft carriers destined for Hawaii,’’ Eric said.
‘’Those ships departed shortly after midnight; at maximum speed they will arrive in two and a half days. I know that is a long time, but the distance is two thousand miles. The ash situation is so bad that it will be a while before there are any flights into the area; it will be weeks before the airports are clear enough of the ash to allow aircraft operations,’’ Eric said.
‘’Last night President Jones requested that cruise ships be contracted that could be used to house residents of the islands until it is safe to return to their homes. I can report that as of fifteen minutes ago three are under contract and as soon as they are filled with supplies, they will be en route to the area.’’
‘’Those ships are ‘The Golden Nugget’ and the Silver Spoon’ From the Alaska Cruise lines. The other is the ’Oasis of the Seas’ from the Royal Caribbean cruise lines. Talks with others are progressing,’’ Eric said.
‘’Thanks Eric, that is good news,’’ I said.
‘’I think here would be a good time to get an update from the Navy at Pearl Harbor. Admiral Felix Petty is in commander of the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, ‘’ I said.
Admiral Petty was on one of the flat screens from the underground command bunker at a secret location near Pearl Harbor.
‘’Admiral; you have the floor,’’ I said.
‘’Following orders, all ships departed Pearl for the open seas to escape the damaging ash. All but two ships were able to depart. Those two ships were in dry dock undergoing repairs.’’
‘’Once at sea and clear of the ash fall, those ships began the process of clearing the desks of ash to begin rescue and recovery operations. Communications this morning indicate that the ash was shoveled or washed overboard, and those ships are now fully operational with only minor damage to equipment,’’ he said.
‘’The Lincoln, Roosevelt, Carl Vinson, and others are all en route – minus their aircraft wing – from various locations to aid in the search for survivors. Without an air wing aboard, the hangar decks can be set up with cots,’’ he said.
“It’s here that we should talk about those that survived on Honolulu and Oahu and the problems they are going to encounter. For that we turn to the National institute of Health and Dr. Victor Campbell, and also from John Hopkins Hospital, Emory Davidson via video,’’ I said.
‘’Aside from physical injuries – broken bones, burns, dehydration and exhaustion – you are going to encounter tremendous respiratory damage. Everyone is going to suffer from ash inhalation. You’re are going to need thousands of respirators,’’ Dr. Campbell said.
‘’I second that and will add there will be long term health problems, especially for the very young. John Hopkins has done extensive research on the effects of ash and have developed extensive successful treatment procedures,’’ Dr. Davidson said.
‘’Dr. Peter Schwartz is considered one of the leading volcanologists at the University of California. Dr. Swartz, I know we are not quite at the twenty-four-hour mark into this tragedy and the eruption shows no signs of weakening. In your expert opinion; is this unusual and how soon can we expect a decrease in the activity?’’ I said.
‘’Normally there is a decrease after the initial eruption, but this is a different acting volcano. Based on available shared data it has shown no sign of
weaking weakening ,’’ he said.
‘’There are multiple volcanos in the ring of fire – are they showing increasing or decreasing activity? Should we be expecting eruptions from other
volcanos volcanoes or has this massive eruption reduced the pressure in them?’’ I asked.
‘’There has been no change in activity so far. The university has been polling all the monitoring stations. A new report should be available later today that may provide a better answer to your question,’’ he replied.
‘’I think everyone in the Pacific awaits that report,’’ I said.
‘’Dr. Baker – as the leading
volcano volcanoe seismologist at the University of Alaska in the volcano volcanoe group – does the lack of seismic activity give us any indication as to the duration or continued strength of the eruption?’’ I said.
‘’Normally there are weeks or months of underground seismic activity that increases, indicating that an eruption may be imminent. None of our instruments placed at multiple locations in the Hawaiian Islands showed any potential pending activity. The University is scouring months of recorded data for anything that could have been missed,’’ he said.
‘’Dr Baker, have the final reports come in on any damages caused by the tsunami?’’ I asked.
‘’Johnson Atoll received heavy damage while the Marshal Islands received moderate damage, as did Kiribati and Melanesia. The death tolls are unknown,’’ he said.
‘’In internal conversations with other experts, they all seem to agree that there is no life left on the island of Molokai after all the damage from the earth quake and the lava and ash that is expected to be ten feet or deeper. Does everyone here agree that all recovery and rescue efforts need to be directed to the other islands?’ I said.
There was a lively conversation but agreement in the end that it was best to put the resources where they had the best chance to be successful. As long as the eruption continued at its current strength, there was no safe way to conduct a search of the island by land or by air.
‘’The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora caused what is known as the year with no summer. It led to the great potato famine in Europe by dropping the temperatures in the norther hemisphere by an estimated five degrees. Are we in danger of that happening again or it too early to tell?’’ I asked the experts.
‘’It’s too early to tell – but every hour that the eruption continues at its present pace increases that likelihood. Ash has already been detected in central United States in the jet streams and is detectable on the radar images. The ash is high in metallic properties and is causing interference in television and radio broadcast over the airwaves. Currently, it is not affecting the cable systems,’’ Eric said.
‘’I think we have covered about everything for now. I will remind everyone that we are to do this again at 1300,’’ I said. With that I closed the conference.
As soon as I did Connie handed me a wad of notes that I needed to read and react to. But I knew I would not escape a few questions by the media.
‘’Madam President, why are so many ships being sent to the islands? Wouldn’t it be better to send people and get the infrastructure back operational?’’ one asked.
‘’It will take months to get the roads and utilities back to anywhere near normal. In the meantime, there are going to be thousands of people needing medical attention, food and a place to stay.’’ I said.
‘’If I remember correctly, each carrier has twelve operating rooms and all the equipment. The smaller assault carriers also have a large medical facility. They also have the ability with landing craft to immediately shuttle people from shore to the ship,’’ I said.
‘‘I envision the landing craft picking up survivors, carrying them to the assault troop carriers and being transferred to the carriers for medical checkup attention and then transferred to the cruise ships for temporary housing. Helicopters can shuttle the people between ships. If I remember correctly, the cruise ships have helipads on them,’’ I said.
‘’Given what we know, I believe this is the fastest way to help the victims of this disaster. Will it be enough? Sadly, no. This is just the beginning of what’s needed. Until the eruption subdues and the ash lessens there is little we can do but stage, plan and prepare to give it our best effort. That effort will be led by the Navy, I said.
‘’Make no mistake, this is going to be a herculean effort. Once they are on the ships, providing food, clothing and the basics is going to be another massive undertaking,’’ I said.
‘’According to the last census, Hawaii came in at a million and a half people. As of yet we have no tally of the people visiting there yesterday,’’ I said.
‘’There are no words that describes the size and scope of this tragedy or the necessary effort to overcome it,’’ I said.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.