On Friday, February 15 I walked to Drunk Bay early in the morning before the sun showed itself. Drunk Bay on the island of St. John faces east and lies on the 18th parallel of latitude not far from the Tropic of Cancer, that imaginary ring around the earth which marks the most northerly latitude at which the sun can appear directly overhead at noon. Waiting for the sun, I looked across a stretch of ocean that breaks next on the shores of Dakar, Senegal and wondered what was happening around the world on the 18th parallel at that moment.
It didn’t take long for the sun to show itself on Drunk Bay. The first ray hit the beach at 6:45 AM to light a field of figures made from coral, drift wood and flotsam.
Due east at the same moment the sun hit its noon peak over the desert that lies between Timbuktu, Mali and the Darfur region of Sudan. That morning the Sudan Tribune had reported the following story:
Crammed into school buildings in the centre of Suleia, just 200 out of the West Darfur town’s original 25,000 population were left after an attack by militia and the Sudanese army.
Thursday was the first time anyone from outside had been able to reach the town and the people remaining were mostly elderly women, those with babies or old men.They were not able to run as far as others to escape the bombing and the militia who looted and burned and killed.
Suleia was targeted as part of an army offensive on three towns to retake them from the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) almost a week earlier.
Among the survivors, Hawa Suleiman had no breast milk to feed her five-month-old baby after she spent a week under a tree with no food following the attack."The Janjaweed came and took everything, our food, our furniture," said the 35-year-old mother, who did not know where any of her other six children or her husband was.Her face, cut with traditional tribal markings, was worn with worry as she struggled to quieten her crying, hungry child. She said she came back on Thursday because she heard aid workers had brought food.
A joint U.N.-humanitarian convoy brought food to the area for the first time since mid-December. Some 160,000 people had been cut off from aid since then, said U.N. official Amy Martin.
"We have not bathed for a week," said 75-year-old Mohamed Eissa Abdallah, bent over double with age and leaning on a wooden staff. His face and clothes were caked with dust and mud."I buried my brother with my own hands," he said.
Many of the survivors said at least one member of their family had been killed.
A Sudanese staff of the International Committee for the Red Cross was killed in the attack on Suleia.
Washington calls the Darfur violence genocide, a term Khartoum rejects, blaming Western media for exaggerating the conflict.
The offensive was the largest in many months and aid agencies say it affected 50,000-60,000 people, less than initial rebel estimates of up to 200,000. Up to 12,000 refugees fled into neighboring eastern Chad, the U.N. refugee agency said.
Further east on the 18th parallel, the day was windless and dry in Sana, Yemen and very humid but dry and calm in Da Nang, Vietnam.
I don’t know who made the figures which lie on the shore of Drunk Bay. Probably one person got it started and then others added to the display.
The light was pink on the coral figures and the temperature was a pleasant 72 ° F. In Mumbai, India it was late in the afternoon, and a steamy 88° and the Times of India reported that Pakistani police had arrested another "important suspect" allegedly involved in the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, taking the total number of people apprehended in the case to five.
It was 8 PM in Manila and earlier that day the Manila Times reported that Security officials said they had uncovered a plot by Islamic militants linked to the al-Qaeda network to assassinate President Gloria Arroyo and ‘other targets.’”
It was 70° and still dark in Acapulco, Mexico, but in nearby Port-au-Prince, Haiti the sky was just beginning to lighten.
When the sun was high enough to shorten the shadows and flatten the forms of the figures on Drunk Bay, I left.