Dec 26, 2004
Well, in case any of you were reading or listening to the news, and learned of the tidal wave caused by the recent earthquake that hit SE Asia, and then got to wondering about my proximity to this wave, and wondered about my well-being, I'll start by saying I am fine.
As for my proximity to the wave, I saw what was a small version of it hit the shores of Krabi, the town I happened to arrive in just when all of this was unfolding (I took a motorcycle taxi out to the ocean from town to see what all the fuss was about!?!). I arrived back on land in Khoa Lak on the west coast of Thailand's southern penisula last night (about 60 kilometers north of Phuket, see map). This morning I caught a bus over to Krabi, and the rest of my story for now is on the homepage.
It is now 8:30 PM, and since that wave came ashore at about 11:30 this morning, Krabi has become what I suspect is one of many hubs of the ensuing rescue efforts - at least for southern Thailand. I've spent the last few hours watching all of this unfold at the dock a couple hundred meters from my hotel - having gotten "stuck" in Krabi for the night since the road to the bit of coast I wanted to get to tonight is closed due to the wave.
Boatloads of people coming from Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi and other islands in the vicinity have been arrivikng here, and some of those people have left the boats on stretchers. Sirens galore, and even more Thai folks watching as yet another natural disaster hits this corner of the country (the last one being just when I arrived in Thailand in late November).
The threat was big enough here in Krabi that some of the internet cafes located on the harbor street are just now putting their computers back into their shops - having hauled them away in case the wave breached the seawall. I caught a motorbike taxi out to the point of Krabi most directly facing the ocean (as Krabi is actually up a river a bit), and saw what little of "the wave" that came ashore here, before the cops sent me and everyone else away from there. Later I saw a few former bamboo homes on stilts floating down the river.
But Krabi was very lucky. What I know from what I've heard and the news on so many tvs in town is that Phuket got hit very hard, with some witnesses saying they saw a 10 meter wave come ashore. Au Nang, the town I wanted to get to tonite, got hit hard too, with many boats being pushed up onto the main ocean street.
Before I go, I'll add a story I just heard here in the internet cafe. I took a break from writing all of this to watch some footage of the wave hitting the shore of the town I wanted to go to today - Au Nang. Very impressive. Also watching the news were a father and son, who experienced the wave first hand today. They were on a ferry from Phuket to Ko Lanta (see map), and their boat had just left Au Nang when they encountered the wave. The father said they hit three waves, the first of which was the biggest - the son figured it was a 10 meter free fall on the back side of the first wave - thus confirming the report I shared that people in Phuket had seen a 10 meter wave. So, imagine a fery boat going over a 10 meter wave. Wow!!! A big wave indeed.
I am sure you all will eventually get more information about what happened across the region than I will, but I suspect I will see some fairly significant damage and hear some good tales over the next two weeks as I try and visit some of the islands south of Krabi. Quite a little unexpected twist to my time here in southwestern Thailand.
So, yes, I am fine.
P.S. After writing all of this and mailing my update notice to you all, I decided to check out the latest news on the web. After reading the below segment from CNN and some other reports from BBC, right about now (a short ten minutes after sending you my update notice) I am feeling pretty shakey and fortunate. "But for the grace of God...." - had this been a day later I would have been on one of the islands that has been hit much worse than Krabi. Phuket and Ko Phi Phi are a short 1.5 hour boat ride from here. Holy shit, this is big. Check out this report from CNN's website:
Thai authorities say nearly 400 are feared dead -- most of them, at least 200, on the small island of Phi Phi, between Thailand's coastal area and the resort island of Phuket.
The coastal city of Krabi is reporting 48 deaths there -- and 200 small boats missing, many feared to have been manned and out to sea when the waves crashed ashore.
On Phuket -- one of the region's most popular tourist destination -- at least 150 are reported dead. One witness said Phuket's Laguna Beach resort area is "completely gone."
Phuket's airport, which closed down when its runways flooded, reopened, and many of the island's roads were passable.
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Chinnawat arrived in Phuket and said the situation was "under control." He told CNN he planned to stay the night and direct rescue and relief efforts.