Saturday, January 01, 2005

NATURES UGLY HAND - What we saw

NATURES UGLY HAND: WHAT WE SAW

This is a photo (below) that gets closest to what many of us saw as we stood on the beach - looking out at the water. At first - the ocean pulled back. It was as if somewhere way out at sea - a god pulled a giant plug on the bathtub. The water was sucked backwards - leaving only a muddy potholed ground - full of flopping fish - and small holes of water. All of the seniors and families (mostly the ones on the beach at 9:00 in the morning), decided it was a great time to explore this unique moment. They walked out and looked at the new landscape. They explored trinkets never seen before as this part of the ocean bed had never been exposed in 50 years. Children bounced along to little pools of water - newly created children's pools just perfect for jumping in. The turned their backs to the distance. And yet others slept on the beach - taking in the cool and pleasant morning air.

At first - you saw it. The horizon began to be blocked out - and you saw a blue-black dark wall spring to life. You could tell the water was coming back. And soon, all of your newly discovered play areas would be back to normal - covered once again by water. Sure, it felt odd. And you wondered, "why is this happening." But no logical reason came to mind. It was a full moon last night - and so perhaps the moon was creating an abnormal tide. Most of us didn't live by oceans - and so we had no clue as to how the ocean was really supposed to work.

Many locals stood up at the retaining wall - in awe - looking at their backyard sea of water that was no more. But they knew the power of the ocean - and like a man who had once been bit by a snake, were fearful to get any closer. But there were fish. Flopping large fish. Laying there. Perfect for a fry or bake.

SEE DRAMATIC WAVE PICTURE HERE
THE FIRST WAVE JUST BEFORE IT HITS!

How could you let them just lie there? And so, a few local came out to explore. And if the locals were out there - then surely they must know why this was happening. And so surely it must also be safe?

But then we saw the wall. At first - way out at sea. But wait. If you blinked your eyes - it changed positions really fast. Really fast. And then we could see it was moving too fast. For a few seconds, everyone was mesmerized by the wall. And the sound. And then, with a snap of a finger, hundreds were popped out of their hypnosis - and people started to walk. Fast. And then run. And soon, everyone started to scream. "Get up on the wall!" some shouted.

With only a few stairs going up the concrete wall - everyone headed for a distant spot on the beach. And some thought it would be ok if you just got up on the wall.

The water filled up the beach like a gorging bathtub. Water came at the people at 150 mph - and no matter how hard you tried, unless you were close to the wall - you couldn't outrun it.

The water came in fast. Some people stumbled. Some held their gound or were swept WITH the water towards the wall. People sputtered and coughed.

The water spilled over the road.

Some people went down - and most were in shock to have seen such a thing happen. But that was only the beginning. And while many people were able to stand back up again - brusied and battered, or having had all of their clothing ripped off by such a fast and switch wave - it wasn't over.

The second - and most deadly SWELL came. And this one was the life taking swell. Larger. More fierce. Taller by 10 feet - this one just came so strongly - and pushed everything in its path towards the town. People were but leaves going under. This swell pushed all of the 200 cars on the beach forward. It pushed hundreds of parked motorcyles and tuk tuks. It pushed over the two busses parked in front of the dive shop - waiting to take divers out to their morning dive, after having collected them all morning from local hotels.

It pushed hard and strong. Everything was pushed into the first row of hotels and shops lining the beach. The swirls first broke open window and doors and washing out every stick of furniture - every bed - every suitcase stacked in a corner. Tables and chair of restaurants were sluiced out. And then every hole of room space was relaced with larger items. Autos were thrown against buildings. Where there was a bed was now a car. Or 3 mangled motorcycles. The Coco-cola truck delivering morning soda was picked up and ran into the side of a bank, wedging it so tight into the lobby that four vehicles the next day would have to pull it out. Boats on the ocean were thrown into the forks of tall palm trees on the beach.

People at the Starbucks went screaming madly. In 10 seconds, every piece of coffee equipment, chair, table and bags of coffee were washed away. The only thing remaning were the lights hanging from the second story ceiling.

The water weaved its way for 4 blocks inland - getting caught like a guided stream between banks of buildings. The force pushed between the buildings, rising as high as 10 feet down perpendicular roads to the beach - again, washing out everything shop on the ground floor.

And the people? Few had a real chance. If you could swim - and managed to follow the wave - you might have a chance. But even if you could swim, the items being thrown with you - above you - under you - battered you. Glass from many of the store front windows flowed slilently and cut people.

If you were lucky enough to get away from the first wave - and you ran up stairs to tops of buildings, you might have been lucky. But on Phuket beach - nearly 500 people who were on the beach never made it. Families. Seniors. Fisherman. 250 bodies have been found so far. More more just disappeared.

Because once all that water flowed inland during the second SWELL - the ocean once again, pulled back, and drained the city just as fast - pulling out once again.

People talk of two waves. The incoming was tough. But once the water from the second wave pulled back, everything floating in that water had to fall. Half of it flowed back out to sea, like a hand of a monster grabbing - and not letting go. The rest fell to the ground as the water vacated. Debris stacked 3 feet high covered everything (see my pictures below). And the rest just washed out to sea - only to be returned, each morning, little by little.

And the whole while, the morning sunshine warmed the day.

(this account comes from what I saw - and the stories told to me the moments and hours after the tsunami). When looking at the photos below, you will see photos of the descruction I took right after the waves hit. - Rick

50 Comments:

At 4:31 PM, Blogger GraceD said...

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. You have done a magnificent job as a Citizen Journalist with your reporting of this nightmare. I know I speak for many readers around the world in asking you to please keep posting.

I send blessings to you and sincere wishes for your health and happiness.

 
At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for making it a little more real for an American overseas. They're doing a terrible job covering it over here, with two or three pictures that do it justice the way yours does. It's truly awful what has happened.

-Sarah R.
Chicago, IL USA

 
At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...thanks for the pics and the report...you do a great job of reporting the enormity of the event.

If you find more pictures of the wave coming in, please post them.

JJ
Battleboro, NC

 
At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for keeping us so well informed. This is truly the single most devastating event I have ever witnessed. My thougts and prayers go out to everyone who was touched by this disater.

 
At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your story and reflected upon my stay in Patong and Kata Beach only one day before the wave hit. I left Phuket before the tsunami, and after arriving in Bangkok, met with many tourists who told me of their experience in Phuket (Patong beach). It is a shame that the US did not react quickly and when at first only committed pocket change. I guess that unfortunately reflects the current administration's reaction to everything...too late and too slow. I met many tourists while in Phuket and God bless everyone of them who went through this event. There were so many families there. I heard that the Thai government helped them very, very effectively too!

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger wayne eddy said...

I have visited Phuket recently and to say that my feelings go out to the locals is just not enough.

To know that so many people's lives have been away, the people I ate with, befriended, to see the images that we have seen ... I have tears.

 
At 2:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great-blog-thanks!
Amazingly-the-family-in-the-photo-of-the-wave-hitting-the-beach-all-survived!
Here-is-a-link-to-their-story!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/tsunami/story/0,15671,1382443,00.html
I-am-a-psychologist-and-appreciate-your-listening-skills!!!
Dr.Robert

 
At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We in the US are heart broken, as much anyone can be who did not experiance this horrendious event first hand. I lived in Asia for many years and events like these touch me deeply. I do however find it disconcerting to hear people refer millions of dollars as "pocket change." That money is not anywhere near "pocket change" to the people who paid it in taxes or to those who donated it personally. It is part of what they have worked hard for all their lives. There have been many times in my life that were very difficult and when someone has been kind enough to help me, my first thought was never that they should have done more. The attitude expressed previously causes me to wonder if sometimes we should not keep our "pocket change" since it never seems to be enough.

 
At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, to the last post...my thoughts also to the one who considers anyones donation as "pocket change"

 
At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and their families. Thank you for the recount of the event, I couldn't imagine the terror as everyone literally had run for their lives when realizing what was about to happen. It is also a shame that people would have the feelings that the US did not react quickly and only committed pocket change. I have to agree with the post above stating "The attitude expressed previously causes me to wonder if sometimes we should not keep our "pocket change" since it never seems to be enough." It seems the US is always willing to send any resources available/needed anytime and anywhere, but there is always people out there that we can never do enough for.

 
At 7:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

millions of dollars may not be "pocket change" exactly, but to put things into perspective, the United States is currently spending over 1,100 million dollars just on the military budget every day of the year. We spend the same amount we have pledged for disaster relief in less than 4 hours!

 
At 5:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has had a much deeper effect on our country's (USA) children. My 8 year old twins that had gotten $25 for Christmas cash are now very good girls indeed. They asked me to drive them to the "place they could donate to the tidal wave people" I was so moved by what they did, the whole $50 went into the box, and no whimpering about what they had wanted to get with that money. They said they knew it would go further in the bad places where the most help is needed.
Bless the little children.....
Claire

 
At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is trully educating us on what to expect next time when we are close to the ocean. I live here in the paradise and learned not to turn my back from the ocean when waiting for the surf. But your story is on my top of the list on heeding the warning of the ocean. Our local top chefs along with our local celebrities are getting ready for Tsunami Relief Fundraiser which will be supported by all of us in the vicinity. Our local community hope to raise $60,000 to $100,000 which will be donated to the American Redcross for SouthAsia earthquake/tsunami. Despite of the disgrantle people blaming the US government for not responding rightaway, I ask to please put everything into perspective that we are now all together as one in rebuilding the hope for the victims and the hope to those providing support for the sake of humanity. ALOHA

 
At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That must have been hell!
There is a photoarchive of the tsunami here at www.photoduck.com/pollyfodder

 
At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad the US finally decided to make a bigger donation towards disaster relief efforts. I did consider the initial $35 million to be pocket change, because after the attack on 9/11 the the US recieved ove $2 billion in aid to the victims of the attack. There were FAR fewer victims of 9/11 then there are currently from this latest disaster. If the US's initial offer was to be spread out evenly to all the 5 million+ victims of the tsunami, it would have come out to a "generous" 7 bucks a person (with nothing left over for clean up efforts and dealing with the dead/disease/famine). The world was there for us during our time of need, and is STILL helping us by sending their soldiers to fight our wars. It's a real shame that when it comes our turn to help others in need, people from this country make remarks about "maybe we should just keep our pocket change then."

 
At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US can always be counted on to help in times of need. The initial amount donated may have seemed small according to other relief efforts, but that was before the severity and the magnitude of the disaster were realized. Once it was determined how great the need was and how much help was needed, the amount was increased substantially. The amount of money donated after the 9/11 attack was not generated overnight either. The "over 2 billion aid to the victims of the attack", as stated in the previous comment, was accumulated over time.

 
At 12:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can never understand what they went through.
My prayers go out to all on this one
The U.S.A. may have been slow,but i am sure we will make up for it.
Why are so many people so quick to put the U.S.A down.
Maybe ,instead of complaining, we all pulled together,
this could be a better world.

 
At 1:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad that you are alright physically from the ordeal you went through. I pray that you and all the survivers can get the proper mental health care they will more certainly need. Nothing can be be more hurtful or devastating than the surviver's guilt. I pray for those killed and those left to suffer their loss. It will take many years to rebuild these areas and it will take many more for the people surviving to be rebuilt, if at all. God Bless You All. God be with You.

 
At 2:38 AM, Blogger Katie said...

I am so touched by your account of the Tsunami. Since that fateful day, I can't get thoughts of what it must have been like out of my mind.
I saw that picture of the people runing from the wave on the cover of the New York Times just days after the disaster. The thing that struck me most was the fact that there appears to be a woman actually running towards the wave! One can only assume that those are her children that she is running towards! What a statement of the power of love to see a person with the instinct and strength to run toward such a horrid fate all for the love of family. I cut the photo out and it will always serve as inspiration for me.
My thoughts are with you all.

 
At 3:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a survivor. Only been watching everything through TV for I could not imagine such nature taking full force like that. I am so afriad of water and can't swim so even the thoughts of a tsunami is like frightening to me. But to actually see it must be scarier than what I can imagine. I am still sad and heart-felt about what happened but when it comes to nature, that's something you can't argue with. Thank you all for your stories and photos. I will keep what you've been sending people in my mind for a while. God forbid there maybe a next time this can happen elsewhere. And we'll all need to remember what to do to survive. Thanks again and keep the stories coming.
FBS

My blog: http://spaces.msn.com/members/firebyrd

 
At 3:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am deeply touched by your personal experiences and I want to thank you for the magnificent job. You are one brave man and God will bless you for all your selfless act. Also I disagree with other's people reaction about US government being slow, instead of yapping about things they don't even need to worry about they just need to concentrate on how they can help tsunami victims. Again thank you! I don't know how else to express my deepest concern to the victims and survivors but just to pray for all of them.... Rachelle

 
At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question that has been bothering me for quite some time... ever since I first heard about the tsunami... you wrote, "At first - the ocean pulled back... The water was sucked backwards - leaving only a muddy potholed ground - full of flopping fish - and small holes of water." and later, "But then we saw the wall. At first - way out at sea."

How much time elapsed between the water receding and the wave coming in? Are we talking 2 minutes? 5? 10?

The best possible thing to come from this tragedy would be to save lives in the future. Nothing can replace the lives already lost, but if people in the areas at risk for future tsunamis are educated by this disaster, lives will be saved in the future.

Remember: When the water recedes, dramatically, don't walk TOWARD the beach; run AWAY from it. The water's coming back... proportionally to how it went out.

 
At 6:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting your story above. I'm sure you know just how lucky you are to have survived. I would also like to apologize for all of the postings left on this site regarding the amount of money the US is giving to the relief and reconstruction efforts. I'm sure that was not what you wanted your story to evolve into. I find it dispicable that people would take such a horrible event and turn it into a political bashing. What happened to all of the people affected by the tsunami is unimaginable. People can argue about the way the US spends their money until the end of time but what does not change is the devastation left behind by the tsunami. To everyone that has wasted their time criticizing the US's spending habits, I ask you instead to pray for the souls of those lost that day as well as for the ones that survived. So many people's lives will never be the same because of those few moments in time, children no longer have parents and some parents now have a hole in their heart that will never heal. I'm sure the last thing on all of their minds is the spending habits of the US Government. So if you aren't satisfied with the US Government's response, instead of complaining about it, do something. There are so many organizations that will accept your donation to help the victims, pick one. Show the world that the US PEOPLE are compassionate and would give anything to help the victims.

 
At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blog - I could feel my fists tighten as I read. What unimaginable horror. My thoughts and prayers are also with the victims of this disaster. Please let this serve as a reminder that we are all vulnerable and never safe from the wrath of nature. I also hope that this will help the powers that be understand the desperate need for early warning systems. There were people in Hawaii who knew about the earthquake half a world away and if there had been some warning system in place in SouthAsia, thousands could have been saved.

 
At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've done a tremendous job of explaining why so many people perished. I wish all the people blaming the victims and their "ignorance" could read it.

As for those chastising the US response, I challenge you to find a nation that has helped more than the US. While European countries were promising to write checks, the US military delivered over 215 tons of disaster supplies in less than 5 days. And that was just the beginning. Do you all know what it costs per day to run two carrier groups providing non-stop relief missions, let alone the bases on land and additional ships, planes, choppers and personnel which have been and are continuiing to be sent to the area??? It's amazing how much energy people spend pointing fingers at the US; that energy could be put to such better use.

 
At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your story really touched my heart.May God be with all the survivers..

 
At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No person that did not witness this horrific disaster can begin to relate to such devastation and tragedy. The people of the U.S. have been donating vigorously since our news began posting accurate descriptions of the need. Our hearts, time, and money will go to the reconstruction, but nothing can relieve the pain suffered by so many families that lost loved ones. As for "pocket change", our military is currently providing the infrastructure and logistics needed for delivering the aid. As well, we learned from years past that we cannot just hand over a check to the beauracracy of a 3rd world country and expect it to be spent providing aid to its people--see Somalia, Congo, Nicoragua, etc. Enough "money" has been donated by the world for the initial relief, and you can expect the U.S. will continue to be there with plenty of time and money to help and monitor the ensuing reconstruction efforts that may last a decade. We have never turned our heads to tragedy around the world in the history of this great nation, especially one of this magnitude. Once again, silently and without implication of indebtedness, the U.S. will give service to the world community--see Marshall Plan for Western Europe after WWII. May your God Bless...

 
At 3:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the account of the ordeal that has devastated south Asia. You are a gifted writer and blessed to have lived to tell the tale. Those of us who read your words can, in some small way, feel the fear and awe that engulfed that shoreline on Dec. 25th. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

To those who feel the need to slam the USA for perceived slow reaction: SHAME ON YOU> The initial reports on the tsunami were along the lines of "Tsunami hits Thailand. 17 killed 55 missing". Even 24 hours later our news services were saying "1000 killed in Asian Tsunami". The US is the richest country in the world and is very generous with it's wealth. Not only is the US government donating money, but the citizens of the US are donating their OWN money in record amounts. Your comments sound like they come from a spoiled child. The "Ugly American" can be counted on to come in and pick up the pieces and then be criticized for doing so. SHAME ON YOU for politicizing this event, and for being so ungrateful!

 
At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shame on you, "Claire", if that IS your real name. Forcing your children to give up their Christmas money to an adult cause! You probably are greedy and would rather have had the money for your own uses. Rot in hell.

 
At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you question the motives of children, who surely saw the horrible scenes of the tsunami on the new, and also maybe heard of it at school? What matter is it to you, who is NOT their parent, that their money went to such a world cause? I agree with their mom, bless their hearts! If my children were so giving and in such an motivated way, other than to do good for strangers who NEED this help, I would be proud as hel. No, no, shame on YOU, for being a b***h, and thinking of what YOU must have thought of, that their money would have been better of in being spent on things that perhaps YOU wanted. If you are a fellow American, let me know your address, I'd gladly caome and set you straight with a set of brass knuckles. This is so sad, that someone could question the innocence and the beauty of children giving in another's time of need. I'll bet that this mom is honestly a proud one, and I also believe that there was no coaching involved. The coverage, what little there is, it is horrifying. News is scarier than anything to kids, because they KNOW it is real, and those bags contain actual human remains.
As their mom said, and I agree, bless the children!
Caroline

 
At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want everyone to remember the tsunami victims.They are very special to me.We should keep helping them get back on track.Ask yourself,would they help us if we were in their position?The answer is probably yes!Many people died from that terrible tsunami.I think everyday about them.Do you?

remember:

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would like to respond to some of the comments posted on your page.
First I would like to agree with the people that think America acted way to slowly and the money that America donated was pocket change. Austarlia donated the most money and the population of that country is less then half of yours and its economy nothing compared to yours.
America you are far too materialistic for your own good. One of your citizens have noted how much you spend on invading and blowing other peoples countries up yet you have such a hard time giving to other HUMAN BEINGS in their hour of need.
Do you remeber 9/11? Look at the donations your country made to its victums, what you have to relize America is that entire families lost their lives that day and whole communities were destroyed not two buildings and 5 - 6000 people. You are materalistic, shallow, conceded and seem to think that the rest of the world are animals and unworthy of your precious dollar except when its being spent of bombs and bullets.

 
At 1:14 PM, Blogger abe906 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:53 AM, Anonymous younglove said...

that was a very touching story. i am 10 years old and doing a science report on tsunamis and how they work and stories and stuff i am going to use yours that story was very very touching

 
At 9:55 AM, Anonymous cc294 said...

i loved your story on what you saw i am going to show it to my friend.i am 10 years old and this has really touched me.

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. i never thought that it was that strong, so scary and so devastating, i am doing a project, (i'm in 8'th garde) of tsunamis, i'm sure going to write bout how much that place and people suffered. take care.

 
At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a good story.Bless all the people who were there

 
At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 10 year old and your story touched my heart. It made me think of if I were there. I loved it.

 
At 6:06 AM, Blogger aoife said...

Hi,
these pesonal accounts are truly eye-opening.Thank you! I'm doing an article on Tsunam survivors.As so many of you are deeply involved in these disasters, could somebody please help me learn more on these terrible events? A personal experience or account of your involvement would be very informative. If so, you can just leave a message hear and i could then reply and give you my email address. Thanks again!Hope to hear from somebody soon.

 
At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow thankyou rick,
A gripping story thankyou so much
im in 8th grade and im doing an assignment on survival stories...
A truly eye-opening disaster

Katelyn
Sydney Australia

 
At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you rick such an eye opening account of the events that happened on that beach and the land itself and yes america was a bit too slow getting money to the disaster zone australia had a better response time which was needed thank you rick

Bryce VictoriaAustralia

 
At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow great article.
Just helped me with my project

 
At 12:47 AM, Anonymous Matthew T Rader said...

Amazing story, thank you for sharing! While I was in India I had the opportunity to meet anther survivor of the tsunami in India. I wrote his story here:

http://infinitemagicphoto.com/2011/01/tsunami-survivor-story/

 
At 1:06 AM, Anonymous billy said...

hi there,Iknow it was bad but what beach are you talking about there are many beaches on phuket, you say 250 pepole died on this beach iwas on the beach at the time ididnt see anywhere near 250 bodys,the biggest loss of live was in kho lak, wich is just of the island, i stayed in karon for 3 months after the wave, it was a terrible tradgedy, but judgeing by some of the posts i dont think some of these folks where even there,

 
At 10:19 PM, Blogger Dudo said...

All peoples on the pictures THE FIRST WAVE JUST BEFORE IT HITS! survived!! This is an Swedish family who got hit by the wave and spoiled out on the ground. You can read about that in Swedish:
http://www.expressen.se/nyheter/1.162895/karin-svard-om-dramat
Woman's name is Karin Swärd (according Swedish newspaper expressen).
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, i red them all.

 
At 11:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice

 

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