NATURES UGLY HAND - What we sawNATURES 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