Monday, December 27, 2004

SURVIVING THE TSUNAMI - Part 3 - What happened next

Subject: SURVIVING A TSUNAMII - From Rick in Thailand - what happened next ( Part 3)

We sat there at the hillside - watching the destruction below us. From up the hill came bloodied and battered people. As the waves would retreat for 10-15 minutes, many people would try to make a run for it - and run down the beach side street the edge - where climbed sharply - and where we were standing.

People came running up in towels - in their underwear. Some came with sullen face - in shock of what they had just been through. Others came running sobbing. Some pulled their suitcases - not wanting to part with their worldly possessions - others came with very little.

For two hours - the waves ebbed and flowed - crossing over the edge - pushing and pulling items. But none were as strong as the first two tidal waves - that so destructively threw cars on top of each other - overturned busses - and washed out every stick of furniture – and people's belongings - from nearly every first floor room at the 20 block long beach.

As people left the beach, and walked up the hill in shock, our hotel became a sort of refugee camp. The road filled with wet people – in shock - bloody - with broken arms and legs. People cried and cried. Others sat at the edge of the road (between our hotel and the cliff that overlooked the beach). But instead of watching what was happening below - they turned away - not wanting to relive over and over what they had been through.

Everyone was confused. We had heard nothing. The weather was beautiful. What on earth could be happening?

Several mentioned that early in the morning - they had experienced tremors from what appeared to be an earthquake. Soon – everyone realized that there must have been an earthquake somewhere – and that we were feeling the results.

I walked down to the beach area - just to the edge where I knew I was high enough - yet farther down from the hotel. I stood there and watched as people ran "in between waves" to get to the street that ran up the hill. Most made it. But if you were far enough down the beach - you didn't realize how quickly the receded water would come back. Some got caught - and we sat and watched horror as the waves rushed back, grabbing the feet of people and throwing them up in the air like little rubber ducks. Most survived. A few did not.

The sound of the people screaming and crying won't leave my ears for quite a while.


After about three hours - the waves stopped coming over the edge. Yet - everyone sat paralyzed. All assumed it was a trick - and no one dared to go back down - for fear that another tsumami would come back, gobbliing them up like little wooden boats.

As the afternoon went on - ambulances started to come up the hill to attend to the wounded.

I sat there - not knowing what to do. The largest challenge was that we had no information - and not way to get it.

But fortunately - I had my mobile phone - and back up batteries on my computer and the phone. I started to SMS to some of my Asia friends - asking the to help me with information.

A SPECIAL THANKS to Jason, Tiffany, Peter and Simon - all of which promised me to send SMS notes as the day went along. At first – there was no news. It was as if nothing had happened! How could that be. (Now, I hear that most news channels, especially here in Asia, are carring in non-stop). These folks would send me SMS - and I would literally start to read them outloud. Soon - I had a crowd of people, causually crowded around me - and I would read the SMS off as it came in. The most popular three questions were: 1). What was that?
and 2). Why and 3) Is this going to happen again!?

In the early moments - there continued to be scares that it would happen again. And if a small wave came back in - everyone would shreak and run up the hill. Everyone kept spreading the rumor that another one would come at 2:00 in the afternoon. Where did it come from? No idea - but most of the people believed it would happen.

Hundreds of people around our hotel believed it. And all sat. And waited - knowing that if itdid not come at 2 - it would come at or 4 or 5....

But the afternoon wore on - and evening came. And no more waves came. I finally went down with a chap to help him go to his hotel room to try to get his luggage.He was on the third floor - and was lucky. Others were sitting on the side of the road - without a stich of their own. (remind me never to sleep without clothes on a beach!)

The night wore on - and everything was in complete darkness. Without power - the once wild and alive beach seems like a ghost town. No one even started to look under things - knowing there were many bodies and fearful that the waves could return.

At the hotel - at about 10:00 - someone came around with garlic bread. Go figure. Somehow, they had taken butter, garlic - and applied it to some bread - and then used a blow torch to sort of toast it. After not eating for the whole day - garlic bread never taste so good.

The entire lobby, pool area and road outside of the hotel became a make shift dormatory. People camped out everwhere. Fortunately, I had a room at this hotel - and invited two other couples to come and use the room with me. We didn't have light or a toilet - and so we carried buckets of water up to dump in the stool for flushing.

Many people smoked. And drank beer. Most were in shock. And as the night went on, with candles, people started talking about their indviidal stories of "where they were" when it hit.

And the process of recover began. And even though people layed down to sleep - I doubt that very few people really slept.

(more to come)


At 6:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your narrative is very good. The details give a greater
degree of understanding of the situation. Yes, now you have something memorable for 2004! The hotels away and high from the beach will now be the most desired places to stay in ocean areas after this event has occurred.
Generations in living 2004 will now know about tsunami's. In another blog, someone had an audiovideo camera and it was like being there when the wave came in. Sound with sight really created a live experience!
Living in Ohio in the United States I did not realize that these areas were such tourist places esp. during the Christmas season. Glad you made it through the experience!!

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep reading that people don't sleep during these sorts of situations. Why? Is it adrenaline? I always assumed that is all I would want to do. Sleep and in that moment, forget.


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