The images are quite sobering. We know the United States military, the Australian military, and dozens of nongovernmental organizations have been working for three weeks trying to provide food, shelter, and clothing to the several million Indonesians that survived the tsunami, and to help begin the recovery. It's a daunting job.
There are areas shown on image after image that look exactly like what they are - the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters to occur in decades. Some areas show no damage at all, yet less than 100 yards away, there is total destruction. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of bridges are gone. Where some of them stood, only the piers remain - even the abutments have been washed away. Several photos show hundreds of acres of devastation where trees have been flattened across huge swaths. Tens of thousands of other trees were uprooted, mixed with other debris, and the remainder clogs rivers, streams, fields, and ponds. Masses of debris block major highways that go nowhere anyway, because the bridges are out. All that's left of many fields are the boundaries and inches - sometimes feet - of salt-filled mud.
Yet even in all this debris, there are signs of life returning to the area. Several areas show people moving about, clearing away debris, and trying to rebuild their lives. In the rural areas, such groups are quite small - frequently only a handful of families. Most of these areas are still cut off from the rest of Sumatra, as all roads in the area are out. Human nature, however, is taking charge once again, and the debris is being cleared, surviving animals are being rounded up, and homes not destroyed are being rebuilt as well as one can expect. There were boats on several rivers, probably fishermen trying to supplement a meager diet with what they can catch.
One thing was very obvious, however. I could find no people around the sea's edge on any of the half-dozen images I've already looked at closely. There's still a great fear of the sea. That may not leave until this generation dies out completely.