Tuesday, December 28, 2004

SURVIVING THE TSUNAMI - Part 6 - Leaving Phuket

December 29

I am at the airport. Time to leave. I was scheduled of course to be here for two more days – but this just isn’t fun. I am not in the mood to go find another resort. I just want to go home. To a shower. And some of my comfort food like coffee.

Sitting here in the airport, they are showing CNN. And BBC. The news is constant – and mostly about the Tsunami. I feel a bit of anger. In the first three hours of the affair – I kept SMSing to my friends – asking them about the news. For hours – they kept writing back – no news yet. No news? How can that be? The whole town is being wiped out – how can this not yet be news? How can they not know about what was causing this? And now – as they describe how they knew so much about the earthquake – how strong it was – then I feel anger as to why we didn’t know here. I wonder if the pilot knew when we arrived in to the airport. After all – we even left Singapore after the earthquake had happened. How could people not know this? And how could they not anticipate that such an earthquake could trigger such tsunamis?

It feels odd to be here – and see them show Phuket – and know that we were there. Or are here. They ask on the television, “What are the tourists doing now?” And they report that many are going about their business – but just staying away from those beaches. And I wonder, “Am I running away from this?” Should I be tougher – and just stay here?

And I see the destruction in the other locations. It is reported that 800 people have been killed here, but in other locations – the destruction and photos are even more devastating. Here in Phuket – there was a six feet retaining wall that the wave had to climb first. In other locations – the water just came. And came. And there was no where for it to go except out and in.

This morning at 6:00 am, as we drove down the hill from the hotel, the street again was full of emergency workers. Along the beach there are still many basements that have not been cleared out. They are full of waters. They are slowly bringing in pumps – and draining the water. Apprehensive. Knowing that as they do – items will float and they will find more bodies.

My driver this morning was with his vehicle on the beach when the wave hit. I was in a quiet mood, but like most here – they need to talk. Even though his English was not very good – he still wanted to talk. And as I have done over the last 48 hours – I have listened.

He told me that he was down on the beach – very near the supermarket that still had bodies. He was waiting for someone to ask him for a taxi ride – when he also noticed the strange phenomenon that was happening outside. He saw the water recede and thought it strange. He told me that many local people saw that when the water went out – that many fishes lay on the deserted sea bed. “What good fortune” many thought. And so some ran out to pick up the living flipping fishes. But soon enough – in the distance – the saw the water coming back. He said it looked like a black wall. And soon, everyone started screaming to run. Some did – they got up from the sand – and stood on the six foot sea wall. But as it close, it became apparent that this might not even be enough. Like a bathtub filling up faster than you can imagine – everyone paniced and started to run. He jumped in to his taxi – and with many others – drove as fast as they could for the hill road – trying to get away – and save their only possession in life – their livelihood.

Yesterday, I ran in to an American doctor. He lives here now – having met a Thai girl when he was younger. They have retired here in Phuket. He told me that at the hospital, there were so many bodies they didn’t know where to put them all. And he said that most of the tourists are old. When the wave hit at half past ten in the morning – most younger people were either sleeping – or just waking up and having their coffee at the hotel. Older folks on the other hand – had been up – and typically wanted to be on the beach when the sun was less hot – and where they could have a cool stroll before it became really warm. But when the shrieks of “run!run!” came – it became too much for them to find a way to quickly get off the beach. And when they did – they surely couldn’t climb up the sea wall. Some found the steps – but even then – where could they go. The younger ones ran for hotels – and tried to climb up to the second and third stories as quickly as they could. But older folks could not do it. And when some younger folks simply grabbed trees and tried to hold on – it was not possible for the older folks.

Some of you know – I am not much of a morning person. I am not a good person for the idea of “the early bird catches the worm.” In this case – the early birds unfortunately didn’t get a very good worm.

THE SMELLS are starting to come. Yesterday – as I walked around and around the wreckage, we began to smell the smell. They started to warn about it on television – but we began to understand what they meant. Either because of fish that washed ashore, spoiled food from shops and restaurants or the unfortunate occasional body buried in the rubbage, things were starting to rot. And in the hot suns of Thailand – there was a whole day of baking. In the next days – I have a feeling that the smell will become intolerable. That is why on the television – you see so many people walking around with hankerchiefs up agains their mouths – as they try to not smell.

I am on a 9:00 plane this morning. My great friend Jason called my airline and switched my tickets to today. They wouldn’t let him do it on the phone – and made him go all the way to the airport. But he did it anyway – heaing the near plead in my voice on the phone. Moments like this again, make me realize just how lucky I am to have some great friends.

I have not looked in the mirror for two days – due to no electricity. The bathroom was dark – and so I have been making due. I am ready to go home and shower. Have a nap – and wake up again – feeling safer and in a better place.

Little things make you smile. I just noticed when I looked at my feet that one of my socks are inside out. What can you expect when you dress in the light of one small candle.

The plane is boarding…


At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of these insensitive, inhuman people who have no concept of what we suffered that day should take time to read the entries on this site rather than abusing it with their commerical piffle. it makes me truly sick to see all this advertising - and i would request that the site administrator remove it and report the person who entered it for spamming.


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