Once again, the images are stunning and horrific. Once again, our hearts ache.
This time it's Nepal, soaringly beautiful but desperately impoverished, and now wracked by a massive earthquake.
The numbers that chart the disaster, as significant as they are, only hint at the unfolding tragedy: more than 4,000 dead, more than 7,000 injured, and tens of thousands homeless -- numbers certain to rise as rescuers reach remote mountain villages in this Himalayan country. The magnitude-7.9 quake was so strong it also killed people in India and other neighboring countries.
We've seen many times how nature's power can exert a tremendous toll. In Nepal, alas, earthquakes are part of life itself. The same grinding of underground tectonic plates that created the majestic Himalaya chain has for hundreds of years unleashed powerful quakes in the region at fairly regular intervals of 75 years or so. The last such earthquake in the area came 81 years ago. Experts warned only last week that another earthquake was imminent.
Saturday's earthquake did not discriminate. Residents were buried in their homes, tourists died while visiting the Dharahara Tower, and climbers perished in an avalanche on Mount Everest. Now comes the aftermath, and the photos and videos hammer at our collective conscience like the aftershocks that keep rocking Nepal.
We see dazed victims unsure where to go or what to do, buildings reduced to rubble while others stand precariously, deep fissures cleaved in pavement, hospitals simply overwhelmed, and the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu cremating bodies by the dozens.
For Nepal, the earthquake was a devastating financial blow. Its economy was just emerging after a long civil war with Maoist rebels. Tourism is vital, and now many of its archaeological treasures are destroyed. It desperately needs help -- immediate and long term. The world, as it always does in these times, is mobilizing. Nations are making pledges. Aid agencies are sending personnel and supplies. But they need money; find a group you trust and, if you can, send a donation. And, if you're so inclined, a prayer.