GOWORLD Travel Magazine Article
Recent pictures and article in online magazine GOWORLD. The article includes pictures I took the 24 hours after the tsunami in Phuket.
GOWORLD TRAVEL MAGAZINE
FIRST HAND STORY: Yusmadi Sulaiman (...the wave swallowed his whole family...)
One moment, Sulaiman told me, his 4-year-old son was clutched in his arms as father and son clung to a coconut tree. The next moment, the boy was gone. Sulaiman heard his wife calling out to him a few feet away, as she held on to their 8-year-old daughter. "Hold me, Bang, hold me," the wife cried, using the Indonesian term of reverence for a spouse. Soon enough, she and her daughter were gone, too, washed away in the flood that some of the locals came to know scornfully as "Black Sunday."
SLATE.COM - DISPATCHES
Dispatch From Banda Aceh - The incredible generosity of the tsunami's survivors. By Eric Lichtblau - Posted in SLATE online news on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2005. Eric Lichtblau is a reporter in the Washington bureau of the New York Times. He covers the Justice Department for the Times.
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia—Yusmadi Sulaiman sat cross-legged on the drab concrete floor, taking another drag from his cigarette. With the electricity still out in much of Banda Aceh, in the northwest tip of Indonesia's Sumatra island, the faint light of a candle illuminated his tears as he told how the giant wave of the tsunami—a word Sulaiman had never even heard a few days earlier—had reached out and swallowed his family whole like some nightmarish scene from a Hollywood movie.
One moment, Sulaiman told me, his 4-year-old son was clutched in his arms as father and son clung to a coconut tree. The next moment, the boy was gone. Sulaiman heard his wife calling out to him a few feet away, as she held on to their 8-year-old daughter.
"Hold me, Bang, hold me," the wife cried, using the Indonesian term of reverence for a spouse. Soon enough, she and her daughter were gone, too, washed away in the flood that some of the locals came to know scornfully as "Black Sunday."
It was three days after the Dec. 26 tsunami when Sulaiman and I first spoke. A spry, youthful-looking man of 60 who drives a delivery truck for a local food company, Sulaiman had been searching for days for his wife and four children in the streets and alleys of his hardscrabble village, streets now lined with bodies and rubble, and he would keep looking for days after that. He would not find them.
Yet even amid such overwhelming tragedy, Sulaiman and many other survivors with whom I spoke in the days after the tsunami carried an air of hope and of optimism. They talked of rebuilding, and they displayed a generosity that was unmistakable.
Sulaiman exhibited that spirit when he overheard that my translator and I were looking to reach an area of devastation some miles away. "Let me drive you," he interjected. "No, no—that's not necessary," I told him.
"Please, let him," said his employer, a Jakarta businessman named Yusi Pura who had ventured up to Banda Aceh to see if Sulaiman and other employees were still alive. "He wants to help. It would make him feel better. Please."
It was only by fluke that I was even in Indonesia. Visiting friends in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, I was on a tiny motorboat that Sunday morning en route to Krakatoa—a volcano that, coincidentally or not, set off one of the last major tsunamis in 1883 when it erupted and killed 40,000 people. Our boat was rocked by swells so strong that we were drenched in seawater and left grabbing for the life preservers; it was not the casual Sunday boat ride we'd expected, to be sure, but we had no idea until many hours later, after an exhausting jaunt to the top of the still-smoldering volcano, that we had just survived a major calamity centered immediately to our north.
Even some eight hours later, after we saw the first CNN crawl about a strong earthquake, the damage appeared to be focused in Thailand and Sri Lanka, and we had no idea of the enormity of the event. Indeed, the Indonesians themselves would not realize for several days just how badly they had been hit—until they began to receive reports of tens of thousands of dead in tough-to-reach coastal regions south of Banda Aceh.
Soon enough, it became clear just how big a story this was—a human drama far removed from the staid press conferences and congressional hearings that I normally cover for the New York Times in Washington, D.C. Starting my reporting in Jakarta, I was in the office of Mike Elmquist, the disaster coordinator for the United Nations in Indonesia, when he received an alarming report: An employee in the region said as many as 40,000 people might be dead in the town of Meulaboh, several hundred miles to the south of Banda Aceh. The report couldn't be confirmed, he said, but if it was true. … His voice trailed off. Within days, as authorities reached Meulaboh by boat, air, and land, it became clear that the number might well be even higher.
I was able to get a commercial flight up to Banda Aceh, surrounded by Jakarta residents packing boxes of water, noodles, and Dunkin' Donuts for friends and relatives. Some travelers bribed airline ticket agents to get on the jammed flight.
Yusi, the Jakarta businessman who had gone looking for his employees in Banda Aceh, quickly befriended my translator and me on the plane ride up and insisted that we stay with him at the undamaged house his company occupied just blocks outside the zone of devastation. While dozens of newly arrived Western reporters slept side-by-side on the floor of a makeshift media center a few blocks away, I may have been the only journalist in Banda Aceh lucky enough to get my own room, sparse as it was. More important, he and his employees quickly offered me a tour of what was left of the local town, pointing out landmarks that were no longer standing.
The devastation was remarkable. The unclaimed bodies of men, women, and children, bloated and bloodied, dotted the streets and riverbeds. Row upon row of shops and homes sat in rubble for miles, one building indistinguishable from the next. A three-story government finance building was flattened like a pancake. Vending carts were snapped like twigs. Brightly colored fishing boats lay capsized in the streets, hundreds of yards from the shoreline.
Perhaps most powerful was the putrid stench of death and decay that was everywhere, forcing survivors to don surgical masks to ward off the odor as they walked the streets. At one mass graveyard near the airport on the outskirts of the city, home to some 6,000 bodies and counting, the stink was overpowering.
Before arriving, I had heard a lot about the ardent anti-American views held by many in the Aceh region, particularly here in an area where Muslim separatists had been waging civil war for decades. I was prepared for that hostility, but it never materialized. What I was not prepared for, as I roamed the streets of the ravaged region, was the site of countless villagers left homeless and hungry who were nonetheless offering Western relief workers, journalists, and soldiers a place to sleep, a bottle of water, or a plate of fresh noodles.
We inevitably offered them money for their kindness. Almost no one would take it. Even a villager who offered to take me for a ride down the coast on his motorcycle and "show me where the bodies are" (he made good on his promise in unforgettably grim fashion) refused to accept any money for gasoline, which was in very short supply.
All that the locals wanted, it seemed, was for the world to know what was happening in their remote island region. "Tell your President Bush we need help," implored one young woman at a refugee camp, as she gave me a list of painkillers, laxatives, and other needed medical supplies to forward to the U.S. authorities.
Saifuddin Abdurrahman, a leader of a local mosque in Banda Aceh, had helped set up a refugee camp on its grounds. As I toured the place, survivors told me the Indonesian government had let them down, so religious leaders had to step in and do what they could. A thousand survivors made do with two toilets among them, and they cooked vegetable soup for themselves in an oversized kettle over an open fire. Across an alley, bloody gauzes lay strewn on the ground at what amounted to a makeshift infirmary for the wounded survivors, and a wooden bench served as an operating table.
The night before I visited the infirmary, one man had died of an infection from wounds suffered in the tsunami. The doctor, a young Muslim woman who had been trying to catch a nap when I arrived, explained that she had no antibiotics with which to treat the man and, worse yet, no way to get him to a local hospital. "We need help, a lot of help," she said.
Abdurrahman did what he could. After one employee at the mosque lost his wife, a son, and his home to the tsunami and was unable to walk from his own wounds, Abdurrahman brought the man back to his home in what by local standards is a posh section of Banda Aceh. The man lay sprawled on a mattress in Abdurrahman's living room, his daughter tending to his wounds.
"I don't have the power to do anything," the man said. "I just pray to Allah. There is nothing else to do."
For more FIRST HAND STORIES - see:
TSUNAMI SURVIVOR STORIES
BLOGGING FOR HOPE
TSUNAMI SURVIVOR STORIES
was headlined in Toronto in an article called BLOGGING FOR HOPE
by Jeffry Haas.
Survivor: Mark, Mardie and William Oberle
Mark Oberle, his wife Mardie Oberle and son William Oberle arrived late the night before the tsunami struck on December 26. They awoke to the early morning earthquake. Their hotel was a block off the beach. Mark Oberle shared his notes on what happened to he and his family at Patong Bay in Phuket Thailand on December 26, 2004. This information is originally from this website
Mark and his family had planned on spending part of his Christmas holiday snorkeling with his family
in Phuket. Instead, he assisted in the rescue and treatment of victims of a
tsunami that struck the region on Dec. 26. Oberle and his family had
visited friends in Bangkok, Thailand, before flying to the island of Phuket late
Dec. 25. The next morning, the tsunami hit. Patong Beach, where he and his
family were staying, was one of the hardest hit areas on the island. Oberle used
his skills as a physician and public health emergency specialist to help set up
triage and rescue injured people in the tsunami's aftermath.
Mark Oberle is Co-Director of the
Institute for Public Health Practice and Principal Investigator for the
Northwest Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center, housed at
NWCPHP. Mark was the first
Director of NWCPHP when it opened in 1990. He currently serves as an Associate
Dean for the School of Public Health
and Professor in the Departments of Health
Services, Epidemiology, Global Health and Adjunct
Professor in Biomedical Informatics
and Medical Education.
Tsunami, December 26, 2004 at Patong
Beach, Phuket, Thailand: Personal Notes from Mark Oberle
TSUNAMI, December 26, 2004
Our vacation in Thailand took an
ominous turn the day after Christmas. During the monumental Indian Ocean
tsunamis on December 26, my wife, my son and I had just arrived at the south
end of Patong Beach, on the island of Phuket, one of the severely impacted
beach areas in Thailand. Our hotel was one building back from the beachfront
hotels, so although there was brief flooding on the ground floor level and
later problems with water and electricity, we were fine. My notes focus on the
first three hours of first aid and rescue before the ambulances arrived---at
one portion of one beach on one island. This kind of effort went on at
thousands of locations around the Indian Ocean that morning against a backdrop
of unknown risk of further tsunami waves. For these countries December 26, 2004
was like September 11, 2001 in the USA.
As background: We were so far behind
at work and at home, that even in early December we were not sure we could take
the time for the trip. So on December 13 when we finally confirmed the hotel
reservation, the waterfront hotels were booked for the Christmas holidays. The
hotel we did get was spacious and had 36 acres of grounds with tropical plants
(Duangjitt Resort on Patong Beach, http://www.duangjittresort-spa.com/). As our taxi
drove from the Phuket Airport late on December 25, we passed through downtown
Patong Beach and saw plenty of activity in the clubs and restaurants even at
that hour. We checked into our hotel shortly after midnight, and noticed that
there was still a party listening to the band in the open air bar. Those were
the hotel guests who probably would sleep in and not go to the beach too early
on December 26. At that point we did not have a clear understanding of where
the beach was located in relation to the row of waterfront hotels. Those hotels
were separated from the Duangjitt Hotel by a large lawn and garden, maybe 100
We slept in late, but about 8AM we
were awoken by the bed shaking for 2-3 minutes (and it was not from the couple
next door). It was clear this was an earthquake, followed 20 minutes later by
another. Because this is not a region of major quakes, I just assumed that they
were small, local quakes. The possibility of a tsunami never crossed my mind.
We lingered at breakfast in the open
air restaurant adjacent to the hotel lobby. As we later realized, almost all of
the guests were from Europe, with very few visitors from Canada and the USA.
Many did not speak English well and the Thai hotel staff knew just enough
English to do their jobs rather than converse. Communications was to become a
major problem. William, Mardie and I were just heading upstairs to change for
the beach when we suddenly noticed people running into the lobby from the hotel
entry driveway, shouting in Thai. We did not know what the commotion was about.
I heard an explosion and saw a
roiling black mass of water next to a waterfront hotel. I thought it was a
sewer line breaking. Mardie thought it was a dam failure, and many others
thought it was a terrorist attack. Quickly after there were more distant
explosions to the north up the beach, sounding like canon fire. The
"explosions" were from the initial large wave slapping into the
concrete buildings as the wave successively reached different points up the
beach. Then I saw a swell of floodwater heading our way--- perhaps just a 3-4
foot deep plateau of water with a roiling mass of water and debris at the
leading edge. Then I finally realized it was a tsunami, related to the
earthquakes two hours earlier. However, even at that point I thought it was a small
tsunami and did not understand the magnitude of the disaster because our view
of the coast was blocked by the intervening palms and line of beachfront
We went up to our second floor room
and saw the floodwaters quickly fill up the courtyard around the pool, carrying
chairs, palm fronds and other debris with it. A few minutes later a second,
higher wave of floodwater entered the courtyard and filled the pool with mud
and debris. The water eventually reached the lower edge of the sliding glass door
to the room below us. It flooded out some bungalows, but only entered a few of
the ground floor rooms in the main building. A sinkhole started to form
underneath the patio below our room, and floodwater rushed under the building.
(Photo by Mark Oberle)
Mardie had gone downstairs to check
on the flood and quickly called me to say that there were injured people in the
lobby. I went downstairs and found panicked tourists milling about. Several
injured people were lying or sitting in the open air bar. A young Thai woman
had a broken right arm and multiple abrasions and lacerations contaminated with
sand. One of the hotel staff tried to translate and told us the woman was
concerned that her money had disappeared from her bathing suit pocket. She did
not know if she had been robbed or the wave action had cleaned out her pocket.
I started to treat her wounds, but quickly realized that there were too many
other wounded who also needed attention. Mardie and I recruited other hotel
guests to help. We rigged up a splint from a broken piece of furniture, and I
showed hotel guests how to cut up sheets and use bottled water to clean wounds.
Lying on the floor was a young Thai man in a bathing suit who had inhaled a
slurry of water and sand. Although he was frothing, his pulse and level of consciousness
were good, and he could speak to me.
An American I had not seen before
stood on a chair and shouted over people in the lobby to tell them to keep
calm, keep children nearby, not to run, and to check in for possible word of an
evacuation. I thought he was the hotel manager, but we later learned that
Michael Hoffman had just arrived from his home in Copenhagen and was checking
in to the hotel when the tsunami hit. At this point, North Americans and
Europeans watching television already had news of the huge earthquake and risk
of tsunamis, but I did not understand the extent of damage even on our own
beach. I mistakenly thought that the tsunami wave that hit our beach was not
much higher than the torrent of water that reached our hotel.
A German man and his son rushed up
to us and asked if I could come upstairs to tend to his wife. Mardie continued
to clean the Thai woman's wounds while I followed them up to the third floor,
carefully stepping through the slippery mud around the poolside, where the
floodwater had subsided. The German woman was lying on a mattress on the
exterior walkway floor. She had a fracture or severe bruise of her left
shoulder, but could still move her arm. She had several severe lacerations and
had thick tar adhering to her skin. I showed her family how to cut up some
sheets and dress the wounds. I lent them my penknife to cut the hair around a
deep scalp laceration. I then went downstairs briefly to make sure there were
no more severe injuries and checked in with Mardie who was still tending the
Thai woman's lacerations. I tried to ask the Thai hotel staff if there were any
more severely wounded people. Although I got a negative reply, I was not sure
that they had understood me or even canvassed the hotel. I went back upstairs,
checked on the German woman, and got my penknife back.
As soon as I returned downstairs to
the lobby, a Norwegian named Rolf, came up to me and said that there was a
woman in shock in the adjacent waterfront hotel. Since the situation seemed in
control in the Duangjitt Hotel lobby, I followed him through 1-2 foot
floodwaters in a circuitous route across the open lawn to the backside of the
Patian hotel [spelling?]. I was wearing flip flop sandals, so the footing was
tricky as we slogged through mud and water, around rebar, lawn chairs, and
other debris and jumped a drainage canal. Several times the mud sucked my
sandals off, but I focused on moving as fast as I could without tripping and
injuring myself on the hidden debris under the muddy water. As we walked to the
beach hotels, a tall European man and a Thai woman were having an argument as
they rushed away from the beach. I could only hear the Thai woman say,
"You are not the only one who...."
Rolf and I reached the back of the
beachfront hotels and went up the northernmost stairway which was slippery with
mud, blood and debris. On the top (4th) floor there were two young English
sisters who were wounded and a Thai woman and a Norwegian man (the latter had
rented the room and the two English sisters had run without their shoes from
the beach up the stairs as high as they could go to take refuge). One sister
had relatively minor lacerations and was standing. The other was lying on the
bed and was pale and shivering. Her pulse was surprisingly normal. She had
multiple lacerations, the worst of which was a penetrating wound of her right
gluteal muscle, deeply contaminated with sand and mud. Although the bleeding
had stopped, I had no idea how soon she would get treated in the hospital since
I had no idea how many injured there were elsewhere or when we could get her
out. I had only heard one distant ambulance come to my hotel, and had no idea
how close an ambulance could get to the waterfront buildings. So I showed the
man and the Thai woman how to cut up some fresh sheets and clean up the milder
lacerations while I tried to clean somewhat the gluteal laceration.
As I was cleaning the lacerations, I
looked out the window and for the first time realized that the surf was still
high. In fact it occasionally surged into the lower floor of the hotel below
me, rattling cars and other debris in the hotel courtyard. With so much debris,
the waves made a powerful, rattling sound as they crashed, like the surf in the
Bering Sea when ice is breaking up. At that point I assumed that the hotel was
right on the beach and that the waves were only somewhat abnormally high. (In
fact the hotel was separated from the beach by a patio, boulevard and seawall.
The waves I was hearing were still tsunami waves that may have peaked 7-10 feet
above the high tide mark). I realized that anyone who had not made it behind
the hotels or climbed above the first floor of the beachfront hotels would most
likely have been drowned, crushed or sliced to death.
The only sound I heard was these incoming
waves and a persistent horn from a small delivery truck that had been pushed
onto a palm tree behind the hotel. The usually vocal local birds (Common Myna
and Yellow-vented Bulbul) were silent. Farther out to sea the ocean was coated
with debris and oil. Several boats and a passenger barge drifted around without
a crew. A few boats were under power, presumably searching for survivors or
The two English sisters' father was
also injured but sitting on the balcony two floors below in the adjacent hotel
(the SeaGull). I called down to him several times, but like his daughters he
said he was injured but doing OK. I reassured the sisters and wrote down the
name of my hotel on a calling card in case I could not get back.
I then tried to get to their father
from the second floor hotel room. The narrow gap between the two hotels was
hopelessly filled with a tangle of debris. So the only way there was to climb
onto the railing of the second floor balcony and then clamber down into the
back of a Toyota pickup truck that was tilted at a 45 degree angle in the gap
between the two hotels (see photo). I then climbed onto the pickup cab, which
was slippery with mud and blood. I pulled myself onto the balcony of the
SeaGull Hotel and met the English girls' father. He had multiple lacerations
but one very deep one on the back side of his left thigh that extended across
the back of his leg, with severely damaged muscle tissue and some persistent
bleeding. Someone had used a sheet as a bandage but it was saturated with blood
and hanging off to the side of the wound.
Another tourist (Italian?) was
standing nearby but I had trouble communicating with him. I tried to tell him
we needed to find clean sheets to stop the bleeding. He got the idea and was
about to kick in the nearby hotel room door, when I signaled to stop. The glass
windows had been smashed by the waves, so I just reached around through the
window and opened the door from inside. I put a clean pressure bandage on the
Englishman and later helped him get out of the porch chair in the sun and lie
down on the bed. He had plenty of water and a soda. He joked that he never
liked Coke but really appreciated it now. I told him I would find a way to get
him and his daughters out.
I asked the Italian if there were
more wounded, and he led me around a second floor walkway to the hotel office.
On the floor was sitting a Thai man who had a single deep laceration on his
ankle that he signaled had cut his Achilles' tendon. The dressing looked in
good shape, so I did not change it. The hotel manager or desk clerk was there,
but could barely speak English. He seemed dazed, but I was able to ask him if
there were other injured people. He led me up a back stairway to the third
floor where a heavyset German man was lying on a roll away bed. His wife was
quietly sitting in a chair next to him. The German man spoke English and told
me that he had been pinned by a car and had back and abdominal pain. He said he
had just had abdominal surgery two weeks before. His pulse and color were good,
but he may have had decreased sensation in his toes. He asked for an injection
for his pain. I had to tell him that I was a tourist too, but we would find a
way to get him out.
A sudden moment of calm happened as
I was about to rush downstairs. A woman in the adjacent hotel room (she sounded
East African?) had been listening to my conversation with the German man. She
appeared calm and focused (or maybe I just imagined that). She pointed out that
the quiet German woman had a deep scalp laceration. So I asked the hotel
manager if he could get a pair of scissors, and I showed the African woman how
to cut the hair away from the wound and clean and bandage the laceration.
I then asked the hotel manager how
we could evacuate the injured. He led me down a back stairway to a loading
dock. The loading dock backed up to what may have been a kitchen and dining
room, but it was now completely blown open on the east and west sides, with
tangled metal, vent pipes, and dangling wires bracketing a view of the ocean.
At that moment we heard an ambulance siren and I felt a huge sense of relief.
But as it approached a building just north of us, it turned back. The front of
the hotel was still not accessible due to water and debris. A dazed,
middle-aged tourist walked into what had been the kitchen. He stated in a far
away voice that the local authorities had predicted another, larger tsunami
(10m) and that people were told to evacuate. He then slowly ambled toward the
ocean. I called after him, but he just kept walking. A young man wearing a bike
helmet ran in from the back and yelled out the same warning. The idea of a
larger tsunami did not make sense to me. Although I had no idea where the
earthquake's epicenter was, the fact that there were two major tsunami waves
following two earthquakes, made me think that we had in fact experienced the
major tsunamis from those quakes. If that were true, we would have to feel
another quake of the same magnitude if there were going to be still more large
waves. [That reasoning is not true, as rescue crews have discovered after
Nevertheless I was concerned that
the injured may need to be moved soon if the warnings of new tsunamis were
true. I wanted the hotel manager to send one of the uninjured men from his office
over to my hotel, to get men to carry the wounded over there where I knew
trucks were now able to drive to. But I either could not communicate this, or
the man disagreed with my suggestion. So I wrote out two duplicate notes
tersely listing the names, locations and condition of the injured people, with
a priority list of who should be evacuated first in case an ambulance arrived
before I could get back with stretcher crews. [Since we had only been in
Thailand 10 days, I had no idea how emergency services are organized. It is
quite possible that the hotel manager had sent out a messenger on foot with
word of the injured, and he was just waiting for the ambulances to show up].
It was 12:30. I exited through what
was left of the back of the hotel, and made my way to the main road that led
inland. By this point most of the flood water had subsided. Back at my hotel,
Mardie told me that the Thai woman with the broken arm had vanished. She had
attended some other tourists with lacerations. One girl was panicked as she
watched Mardie try to patch up a deep laceration that exposed bone on her
I approached Michael Hoffman and
asked if he was the hotel manager. He said he was not, but asked what I needed.
I told him I needed 16 volunteers and plastic pool beds to carry the injured
from the SeaGull and Paitin hotels back to the Duangjitt Hotel where vehicles
could transport them to the hospital. There were instantly plenty of
volunteers. I told them that the first order of business was their own safety
and that we would slog through the debris field only as fast as we could safely
travel. Since I thought Rolf had been staying at one of the beachfront hotels,
I asked him to lead us back to the English sisters' room. (It turns out Rolf
knew no more than I did. He had been staying at the Duangjitt Hotel and did not
realize that the beach access road was now a drier route to the beachfront. But
at least he remembered the stairway to the room after our band of volunteers
sloshed through the mud across what had been a lawn). When we got to the Paitin
hotel, we initially climbed up the wrong stairway, then the correct one. There
was a moment of confusion when I tried to split up the party of rescuers. I
think a number of them did not understand my English, so a traffic jam occurred
on the stairs. The stairway was too narrow for the stretchers, but the two
English sisters were able to limp down with assistance. I asked Rolf and
another European who had done some medic work to coordinate taking the two
sisters back to the Duangjitt on the beach chairs.
The rest of the rescue party then
followed me across the second floor balcony and over the pickup truck and
debris to the south balcony of the Sea Gull hotel where the Englishman seemed
in good spirits. By this time the beach road in front of the hotel looked
drier, but the stairway down was blocked by debris. I was not sure if exiting
out the front was safe if in fact a major tsunami was going to hit as
predicted. So five of us continued down to the office to scout out the back
exit route. But the back route had some broken wall fragments surrounded by
water, that made it difficult for a stretcher party to navigate. Then I noticed
that 2 small ambulances had arrived immediately in front of the building. I
gingerly negotiated the wreckage through the front patio and found that the
German man was in one ambulance. A British woman doctor was tending to him in
the ambulance. I led the other ambulance driver to the Englishman. Unbeknownst
to me, some Thai volunteers started clearing away debris to the front stairway.
So while I was trying to communicate a complicated exit route out the back,
there was suddenly a perfectly clear, shorter route out front. One of the
volunteers from our hotel vigorously tapped me on the shoulder and communicated
this fact to me in Italian and English. Although that was the easiest exit
route, I am still not sure that it was the safest since there could still be
another major tsunami wave. The Thai medic brought up a stretcher board, and
the Thai volunteers prepared to lift him. I quickly pushed a few of them to the
side of the room since half of them were barefoot and were not aware of the
broken glass on the floor. I pushed the glass out of the way, and the party
then lifted the Englishman out to the ambulance.
That seemed to complete the
evacuation at that location. I took the unused pool chair back to the Duangjitt
Hotel to check on the English sisters. But they had already been taken to the
hospital by the time I arrived. I had expected to rest, but Mardie had been
tending several other people with severe lacerations at the Duangjitt Hotel.
They were about to be put on a truck to the hospital.
Somehow word had been communicated
to our hotel that another, 10 meter tsunami was coming and that we should all
evacuate to higher ground. A truck had already taken small children and their
mothers. Mardie, William and I rushed to our hotel room and gathered food,
water, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, a Thai phrase book, extra clothing, and
other essentials in daypacks and walked briskly up the road toward the closest
hill. It was never clear how authoritative this evacuation order was. In fact,
foot and auto traffic was moving both toward and away from the beach. We walked
up the main road and then climbed up to some hillside apartments where several
dozen tourists and Thais had already gathered. A very generous Thai woman who
lived in one apartment passed around some food. Many of the Europeans had
cellphones that allowed them to get text messages from Europe about the large
quake. Four hours after the tsunami, we were finally learning the extent of the
catastrophe. We spent the rest of the afternoon until dusk there, talking to
the other refugees.
The first prediction of a 3 PM
tsunami passed, then the second prediction of a 5 PM tsunami also did not pan
out. I read for a while. Several times there was a commotion on the road down
below as trucks, cars and motorbikes would flee away from the beach, taking up
both lanes of the road. The trigger for the panic was never clear. At 3 PM a
policeman appeared on the road about half way to the beach. I watched through
binoculars as he diverted traffic away from the beach, but allowed pedestrians
to pass in either direction. We thought this was a further sign of an impending
new tsunami, but we never knew the reason. After 15 minutes the policeman
disappeared, and traffic resumed as before.
As dusk approached, the three of us
decided to have a quick dinner at a hillside hotel restaurant. Although the
hillside apartments had electricity, the hotel did not, so we ate quickly by
candlelight. We then walked back to the hotel by the light of the car traffic.
Our hotel had partial power, presumably from generators, so there was light,
but no air conditioning. The hotel staff and their Thai friends who volunteered
to help had pulled together 2 large pots of rice and Thai curry that they
offered for free to guests in the lobby.
We sat around and talked with other
guests to try to fill in the picture of the tsunami. We learned that at our
sector of the beach, enough people sounded the alarm when the ocean receded
that everyone ran from the tsunami. That was not true on other sectors of the
beach where some people lingered or even approached the exposed sea floor out
of curiosity. We heard many stories of suffering. One couple at the hotel had
been walking on the beach. The wife made it back, but the husband was swept out
to sea. A twelve-year old girl had rows of parallel scrapes. She had been
submerged and a car scraped over her. The stories went on. There were
handwritten signs at the reception desk from people searching for missing loved
We later learned from Rolf that
after we went to bed, the hotel staff told Rolf about 1AM that there was
another tsunami coming and that the hotel would have to be evacuated. He was
finally reunited with his wife who had spent the day in the hospital with two
damaged vertebrae, but they and the other guests who heard the 1 a.m. tsunami
warning, had to spend the night on the hillside. We never heard a knock at our
At about 3 AM I awoke with a
horrible cramp in my right calf. It lasted for over two hours. I attribute it
to allowing myself to get dehydrated during the scramble to look for victims,
and the fact that the bottom half of my right flip flop sandal had been sucked
off in the mud.
Throughout the next two days a very
odd thing happened. Unlike the usual isolation among hotel guests, most people
wanted to talk to each other, and perfect strangers were particularly eager to
talk to Mardie and me since we had mobilized first aid efforts. The men who
volunteered to carry the makeshift stretchers gave each other a knowing nod as
they passed in the hall.
Air conditioning and water were
restored to our room mid-day Monday. After breakfast we walked to the beach for
the first time and surveyed the wreckage of the beachfront hotels. At the Sea
Gull hotel, multiple cars were piled up against the seaward walls, and one car
had slammed into the building perpendicularly so that it came to rest inside
the guest room. It was obvious that anyone who could not find a stairway to an
upper floor would not have survived the series of debris-laden waves. Work
crews were cleaning some wreckage and pumping water out of several buildings,
presumably looking for bodies.
We put our feet in the Andaman Sea
and then headed back to our hotel to rest for the day. Mardie picked up a
small, oil stained plastic dove. The water was calm and inviting, but no one
was swimming in the sea that had erupted so violently a few hours before. Back
at our hotel, the main pool was filled with debris, but a smaller, slightly
elevated pool was a place of surreal refuge for many of the guests.
On Tuesday, December 28 we took an
early taxi to the airport thinking that the road though the center of Patong
Beach would be congested or blocked and that the airport would be crowded. In
fact the inland route through town had only a little flood debris, and the
airport was not particularly crowded. The Thai Airlines ticket agent said that
20 agents had been brought in from Bangkok on Monday, and 10 additional flights
had been added for the mass exodus. There was an Italian Air Force C-141 and a
Thai cargo plane on the tarmac. But other than that, the only evidence of
anything unusual was the occasional tourist with bruises or multiple
lacerations on the legs.
One of the video clips that BBC
World News and other media have been showing is a view looking down from a very
tall building. The clip shows a tall tsunami wave hitting several 3-4 story
hotels and then a surge of debris and water enveloping the lower floors and
moving inland down a street to the left of the screen. That video was taken on
our beach about half a mile north of our hotel. Thai TV and BBC had been
showing that newsclip hourly, but I had no idea how much play the whole
disaster received in the US media until we got back to Bangkok.
The big error everyone made in
Phuket on December 26 was assuming that the earthquakes before the tsunamis
were small and local. Best guess is that in southern Thailand we felt the main
shock (magnitude 9) and a large aftershock (magnitude 7.1 off the Nicobar
islands). The best course of action when your are at the coast and you feel an
earthquake, is to evacuate to high ground or climb to a higher level in a
concrete building immediately (unless you have solid news of no danger).
Tsunami waves might arrive in seconds.
Everyone needs to spend half an hour
at home organizing a household emergency plan. This is especially relevant for
those of us in Pacific rim countries who live in earthquake and tsunami
country. An example of what to consider is at: http://www.doh.wa.gov/phepr/handbook/family.htm.
It is not clear that the first aid I
administered actually saved anyone's life. It eventually struck me that anyone
who suffered a severe bleed or other trauma from the first tsunami wave was
very unlikely to be able to climb to the second floor of the beachfront
buildings before the second, larger wave arrived. Getting people out of the
waterfront buildings as we did, would definitely have saved their lives if a
later set of larger waves came in (especially if the incoming tide were higher
during this full moon). On the other hand, if much larger waves struck while
the volunteers from my hotel were hauling the improvised stretchers, we might
have suffered further casualties. This has happened in Japan when firemen have
arrived at a tsunami disaster too soon after the initial waves.
By daylight on Monday, December 27,
I realized that we had been lucky in many more ways than I appreciated on
Sunday. Obviously, our late arrival and sleeping in late were the important
factor that kept us off the beach when the waves hit. We had considered taking
an early dive boat on Sunday, but those boats would have arrived in shallow
reefs precisely when the tsunami hit. Not being in a beachfront hotel was
clearly a big plus for us, as was the wide, undeveloped lawn and garden that
buffered our hotel from the beachfront. But even more important was the fact
that the concrete hotels immediately in front of us were 2-4 stories tall and
built side by side. So they effectively created a concrete sea wall that
absorbed almost all of the initial violent impact on our part of the beach. The
narrow gap between the Sea Gull and the Paitin hotels might have allowed the
full force of the waves to strike our building, but that gap was instantly
plugged by cars and debris (see photo above). Thus, the tsunami waves could
only reach our hotel by narrow jets of water penetrating through the ground
floor of the beachfront hotels and the huge surge of water swirling around the
north end of the hotel strip, along the main road inland, and then over the
large lawn. This slowed down the water considerably.
Looking at the news photos of Phi
Phi Island, I wonder if the less substantial beachfront buildings there could
have been a factor in the more extensive damage inland (initial reports from
geologists suggest that the the tsunami waves were 5 meters high where we were
at Patong Beach, and 5-6 meters high at Phi Phi). Also the tourist village at
Phi Phi island is on a low beach saddle, whereas the beach at Patong is below a
small seawall that probably absorbed some of the waves' energy. The tsunami
waves were quite variable over the region, presumably due to differences in
local seabed topography. On Phuket Island, Patong and Kamala beaches were badly
affected, but many other beaches were untouched. Khao Lak, to the north of
Phuket island had waves 10-11 meters high (see aerial photo above).
According to the New York Times
on January 5, 90% of the hotel rooms at Patong Beach were back in service, but
not surprisingly, hotel occupancy was only 38%. At Khao Lak it may take a year
for hotels to reopen. The press reported extensive, long-term damage to reef
and mangrove ecosystems (e.g., Wall Street Journal, Jan. 17, 2005). But
surveys by scientists and dive shop operators found that reef damage was quite
variable, and many deeper reefs were not that heavily impacted (Science 2005, 307:657; http://www.scubacat.com/divesiteupdate.html).
Salt water intrusion into lakes, streams, and ground water will have a long
term impact on water supplies and ecosystems in many areas.
One advantage we had in this
disaster was that unlike in the USA, the hotel rooms had lots of bottled water.
So even though the piped water was not working, there was plenty of bottled
water for cleaning wounds and hydrating survivors.
Communications and information flow
is often a problem cited after disasters. The language barrier in Phuket
created a number of problems during the day. My family almost brought a
cellphone with international roaming capability as well as two FRS radios, but
decided not to at the last minute. We had talked about calling Hal Mofjeld at
NOAA/Seattle to get an expert opinion on the tsunami risk before we walked back
down from the hillside to our hotel Dec. 26.
I was so focused on finding the next
severely injured person and maintaining safe footing when I traveled around the
beachfront hotels that I forgot a basic point of mountaineering: always look
back at every trail intersection so you know how to get back if you have to.
That failure created delays in getting back to the SeaGull hotel that could
have proven costly if another tsunami had hit during the rescue.
The medical system was swamped,
given that over 1000 people were severely wounded in Phuket province the first
day (in addition to over 260 dead and 700 missing). But hospitals were even
worse off in the province to the north where there were far more casualties. I
later received an email from some of the survivors I had helped (the English
family I first saw at the beachfront hotels). They said that their wounds were
promptly attended to when they reached the Phuket emergency room, although they
required multiple surgeries and were still recuperating 4 weeks later. I asked
them how they wound up where I found them. The response: "We were not
staying in either hotel but had been on the beach then walked across the road
only to be pushed through a shop window. The shop was standing in front of the
hotel but was demolished by the wave! Hence the hotels were just a convenient
shelter. We were all lifted/clambered up on to "my" balcony first,
then the girls moved to the higher ground where you found them after rumours of
a larger wave coming. As you'll remember I wasn't in a fit state for more
The Thai ambulance crews were
reassuring once they were able to reach the waterfront hotels near us (about 3
hours after the tsunami). I don't know how they prioritized evacuating the
wounded from various sectors of Patong. Telephone service had been cut off, and
nobody at our hotel seemed to have a radio or other means of contacting the 2
hospitals. The only question I had about how the ambulances operated was
whether it would have been better to evacuate the injured from the back of the
hotels instead of the front beach side, in case another big wave hit. The Thais
brought in relief teams of surgeons and other personnel by Monday. The Thai
news did discuss the need for psychological counseling among survivors, but the
media also said that the country had very little capacity in mental health
Several of the European tourists
were urging us to use whiskey or vodka to clean wounds. I told them that was
not a good idea. Here is what a University of Washington colleague who is a
trauma surgeon and epidemiologist told me, "If some sort of definitive
care is to be done within the next few hours, the only real first aid priority
is to stop bleeding, primarily through direct pressure (manual or with gauze or
bandages or any sort of cloth) or compression of pressure points (e.g., femoral
artery in groin for bleeding more distally in the leg, etc). If definitive care
will not be for a long time (e.g., day or more) and the wound is grossly
contaminated (e.g., dirt or other material with high bacterial contamination),
and bleeding has already been controlled, then brief mechanical debridement
(e.g., as by irrigation with clean water) would be indicated. There is no
benefit from antiseptic (especially one like alcohol) at this stage. Soap and
water, possibly OK...but the main need is to remove debris, not sterilization.
Something painful, like alcohol, would probably not cause much damage, but
would cause unnecessary pain, with no real benefit."
The Easter Sunday earthquake 4
decades ago in southern Alaska was about as big as this one but caused far less
damage because the area had few people. The largest earthquake ever measured
(9.5 off Chile in 1960) generated a tsunami, but only a few thousand people
died because the earthquake and tsunamis affected sparsely populated areas (http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/c1187/).
The risk of damage and lives lost in the Indian and Pacific Ocean Basins is
going to get far worse as human population growth continues and as individuals
choose to live near the coast. The population of Thailand is estimated to
increase by only 15% in the next 45 years, but the population of India could
increase by 50% and in Somalia by 207% at current rates (www.prb.org).
Without warning systems, public education, and a balanced approach to
development in coastal areas, the risk of damage will most likely be higher
from future tsunamis and earthquakes in the region. Destruction of mangroves
and coral reefs in coastal areas further increases the risk by reducing natural
buffer zones (http://worldwatch.org/pubs/paper/158/).
The United States has a history in
the last 20 years of very limited contributions of foreign aid---in fact one of
the lowest rates of contribution among major developed countries, i.e., less
than $50 per person per year, less than 0.1% of our Gross National Product and
seven times lower than many European countries. In fact, much of our foreign
"aid" is military aid or economic assistance funding which simply
offsets debt rather than provide direct assistance to help poor people get on
their feet. There are plenty of unmet needs and missed opportunities. For
example, 1 million children die each year from measles worldwide, and there are
140 million unplanned pregnancies per year. Yet the USA dramatically reduced
our commitments to some of the most effective foreign aid programs: UNFPA (the
United Nations Population Fund, http://www.unfpa.org/, and the International
Planned Parenthood Federation, http://www.ippf.org/). After fomenting wars in
Central America two decades ago, we backed off of reconstruction aid. The big
publicity around new international AIDS resources has not been followed up with
all the funding promised. Reconstruction aid to Honduras after Hurricane Mitch
has been limited. The list goes on.
So making lofty commitments during
the major publicity phase of tsunami recovery is great, but we need to be sure
that the federal government follows through with those pledges. We also need to
be sure that the current U.S. administration does not simply rob existing,
poorly funded foreign aid accounts to finance the acute relief effort. Now is
the time for a larger national dialogue on foreign aid and our relationship
with less developed countries.
A final note: the Thai people we met before,
during and after the tsunami were wonderful. Although there were later reports
of looting, what we witnessed were hundreds of people streaming to the
shoreline areas to volunteer to help. We want to go back.
USEFUL WEB SITES (some descriptions
copied from CDC)
Tsunamis such as those that recently
hit South Asia can have serious public health consequences. This page provides
information on those issues as well as specific information on the events in
South Asia. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/tsunamis/
Interim Vaccination and Malaria
Prophylaxis Recommendations for Persons Traveling to Areas Affected by the
Tsunami. This link contains the most current immunization, prophylaxis and
prevention recommendations for travelers to the affected regions. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/tsunamis/vaccination.asp
Interim Health Recommendations for
Workers Who Handle Human Remains. New Human remains may contain blood-borne
viruses such as hepatitis viruses and HIV, and bacterial pathogens that cause
diarrheal diseases. This page provides information for people who must directly
handle remains, such as recovery personnel, or persons identifying or preparing
remains for burial or cremation. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/tsunamis/handleremains.asp
Infectious Disease Concerns Associated
with the Indian Ocean Tsunamis. The following link provides a list of
infectious diseases known to exist in some of the countries affected by the
recent tsunamis. The environmental conditions left by the tsunamis may
contribute to the transmission of some of these diseases. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/tsunamis/diseases.asp
Mark Oberle, MD, MPH
School of Public Health and Community Medicine
University of Washington, Box 357230
Seattle, WA 98195-7230
Tel: (206) 616-9394; 543-1144
Labels: 2004 tsunami survivor story, Mark Oberle, phuket tsunami survivor, real tsunami story, The Impossible
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
Hopeful New Year
William Faulkner, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, said:
"I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance."
Thankyou for the ongoing links, attention and support of this weblog. Below - you will find two types of post:
1. My personal posts of experiences from the Tsunami
2. Many FIRST HAND accounts of what happened.
The more we read - understand - feel - the faster we can help and recover.
Send your comments to me - and READ ON...
ABC NEWS names "Bloggers" as a PEOPLE OF THE YEAR
ABC NEWS has named "Bloggers" as a PEOPLE OF THE YEAR - and specifically mentions the work of "FIRSTHAND REPORTING" in their television and website coverage.
Thanks to Maju in Banglore, India LOONEYTARANTULA
who LINKS PHUKET TSUNAMI website for some of the internet stories.
People of the Year: Bloggers
Internet Phenomenon Provides Unique Insight Into People's Thoughts
Dec. 30, 2004 - A blog -- short for "web log" -- is an online personal journal that covers topics ranging from daily life to technology to culture to the arts. Blogs have made such an impact this year that Merriam-Webster named it the word of the year.
"There's a blog for every niche. There's a blog for every interest," said technology writer Xeni Jardin, who co-edits the blog boingboing.net.
Dylan Verdi, an 11-year-old known as the world's youngest videoblogger, says she covers "things that I've seen that I like or that I've heard of, or just anything that happened to me that day that I'm thinking."
There are millions of blogs on the Internet -- a new one is created every seven-and-a-half seconds. More than 10,000 new additions are added to the "blogosphere" each day.
Firsthand Reporting on Asian Tsunami Catastrophes
This week, their influence has become readily apparent. Dozens of bloggers have been filing firsthand reports from the areas devastated by southern Asia's deadly tsunamis.
"There is kind of an immediacy that people can relate to -- can't help but relate to that in a very intimate way," said Jardin.
"Day three," one blogger writes from the scene, "this may be an unexpected challenge and responsibility, and it hurts to see people in pain. But it's also a remarkable experience to be on hand to do something modest, but useful, in the aftermath of a disaster."
Bloggers around the world have made themselves useful, encouraging donations to relief groups, posting the names of the missing and expressing sympathy for the victims.
To read more:
ABC PEOPLE OF THE YEAR: BLOGGERS
HOW TO SURVIVE A TSUNAMI - advice we wish we would have had!
When I read this HOW TO SURVIVE A TSUNAMI
article, I was shocked. What they describe here is exactly what happened. It describes what really happened. It is just that did now know before then what a Tsunami was - or what we should be looking for. Great advice - but a little too late...
Tsunamis that strike coastal locations along the coast of South Asia are most always caused by earthquakes. These earthquakes might occur far away or near where you live. According to historical records the Coromandel Coast (Coast of eastern India), the Ganga delta and Sri Lanka have experienced tsunamis with maximum heights of 1.5 - 2.0 meters (1941 - Andamans earthquakes, 1883 - Krakatoa volcanic eruption). The western Indian coast (Konkan, Malabar and Kerala), Gujarat and the southern coast of Pakistan, have in the past experienced major tsunamis. The 1945 earthquake off Pakistan's Mekran coast caused a 12 meters tsunami. This wave reportedly had a height of 6 meters in Kutchh and 2.5 meters in Mumbai. The 1819 Kutchh earthquake, too caused a tsunami and considerable subsidence in the Kutchh area.
Some tsunamis can be very large. In coastal areas their height can be as great as 30 feet or more (100 feet in extreme cases), and they can move inland several hundred feet. All low lying coastal areas can be struck by tsunamis. A tsunami consists of a series of waves. Often the first wave may not be the largest. The danger from a tsunami can last for several hours after the arrival of the first wave. Tsunamis can move faster than a person can run. Sometimes a tsunami causes the water near shore to recede, exposing the ocean floor. The force of some tsunamis is enormous. Large rocks weighing several tons along with boats and other debris can be moved inland hundreds of feet by the tsunami wave activity. Homes and other buildings are destroyed. All this material and water move with great force and can kill or injure people. Tsunamis can occur at any time, day or night. The 1945 Arabian sea tsunami struck the western coast of India in the early hours of the morning. Tsunamis can travel up rivers and streams that lead to the ocean.
What you should do:
Be aware of tsunami facts. This knowledge could save your life! Share this knowledge with your relatives and friends. It could save their lives! If you are in school and you hear there is a tsunami warning, you should follow the advice of teachers and other school personnel. If you are at home and hear there is a tsunami warning, you should make sure you entire family is aware of the warning. Your family should evacuate your house if you live in a tsunami evacuation. Move in an orderly, calm and safe manner to the evacuation site or to any safe place outside your evacuation zone. Follow the advice of local emergency and law enforcement authorities. Never go down to the beach to watch for a tsunami! WHEN YOU CAN SEE THE WAVE YOU ARE TOO CLOSE TO ESCAPE. Tsunamis can move faster than a person can run. If you are at the beach or near the ocean and you feel the earth shake, move immediately to higher ground. DO NOT wait for a tsunami warning to be announced. Stay away from rivers and streams that lead to the ocean as you would stay away from the beach and ocean if there is a tsunami. A regional tsunami from a local earthquake could strike some areas before a tsunami warning could be announced. Tsunamis generated in distant locations will generally give people enough time to move to higher ground. For locally generated tsunamis, where you might feel the ground shake, you may only have a few minutes to move to higher ground. A tsunami is not a single wave, but a series of waves. Stay out of danger until an "ALL CLEAR" is issued by a competent authority. Approaching tsunamis are sometimes heralded by noticeable rise or fall of coastal waters. This is nature's tsunami warning and should be heeded. Approaching large tsunamis are usually accompanied by a loud roar that sounds like a train or aircraft. If a tsunami arrives at night when you can not see the ocean, this is also nature's tsunami warning and should be heeded. A small tsunami at one beach can be a giant a few miles away. Do not let modest size of one make you lose respect for all. High, multi-story, reinforced concrete hotels are located in many low-lying coastal areas. The upper floors of these hotels can provide a safe place to find refuge should there be a tsunami warning and you cannot move quickly inland to higher ground. Local Civil Defence procedures may, however, not allow this type of evacuation in your area. Homes and small buildings located in low lying coastal areas are not designed to withstand tsunami impacts. Do not stay in these structures should there be a tsunami warning. Offshore reefs and shallow areas may help break the force of tsunami waves, but large and dangerous waves can still be threat to coastal residents in these areas. Staying away fro all low-lying coastal areas is the safest advice when there is a tsunami warning.