December 30, 2004
Dearest friends and loved ones,
Thank you all for the many concerened e-mails - it lets me know how much I am loved!!!
As you may have guessed, I am fine as I am miles away on landlocked Laos. I as in Khao Lak just over a month ago, and from what I hear that was the area that was hardest hit. I am certain the lovely bungalow I stayed at just meters away from the beach is no longer. I hope the many people that took care of us there are safe -- but unfortunately there is no way for me to determine that.
A dear friend of mine used to live in Phuket and only recently returned back to the US a few months ago. Below I have attached an e-mail that was sent to him from one of his friends who is still in Phuket. It is mind-blowing!!!
Let's all continue to think thoughts of health and safety for those directly impacted by this incredible act of nature.
All the best for 2005,
TSUNAMI!!!!Obviously since I have finally managed to get on line, we are OK. Our house and shop are okay and we are even somewhat busy with customers. However NEVER have I seen such destruction and total disaster!!! I don?t know where to begin? I guess I?ll start at the beginning?
It began as a beautiful sunny Sunday ? Boxing Day. We were at the caf? and my yoga students and I had just convened upstairs for our Sunday session. Just as we were laying down our mats (about 10am), my friend Q got a call from her boyfriend who had been on near-by Nai Hahn beach. She was obviously shocked and in disbelief about what she was hearing him say. She said "Get out of there!" But his keys ? everything had been swept away. So she left immediately and the rest of us continued with yoga, unaware of the severity of this "freak wave". Soon the air was filled with sirens, screams, and fumes of burning boat engines. I tried to stay focused on yoga but it was difficult amidst so much commotion. Mid-way through yoga, our chef Noo came upstairs and said "Excuse me, police say everyone must go. Big wave." OK. How serious is this? I?m thinking.
The staff looked scared and eager to get out of there ? our shop and house are only a few hundred feet from the sea. However we are on a somewhat protected bay where many boats are or where anchored, so the power of the waves diminished a bit before hitting our shore. Still there was much damage. Mark was out running errands and heard there were big waves coming. Being a surfer, he had to go check the surf! He drove down a small lane heading towards the sea only to find a mob of people running toward him screaming "GO! GO! GO!" Behind them was a black wave rushing quickly towards them. Mark spun around on his motorbike and escaped. He saw the third wave come in at Rawai beach and got out just in time as well.
He arrived back at the shop and we quickly drove home to check on our dogs. Thankfully the water had not reached our house, thanks to the big lighthouse and drainage ditch directly in front! Some of our neighbors were joining the evacuation, packing their TV?s and rice cookers into their trucks. We had no way of getting our dogs to higher ground so we stayed and watched the water. The biggest waves had already hit, but we saw a few others batter the shore. The current was tremendous! Boats had been thrown up onto the road, cracking the cement wall of the lighthouse.
The damage on our side of the island was minimal compared to the side open to the Indian Ocean. We are somewhat protected being on a bay. We still have running water, electricity and even customers! That?s the good thing ? people still need to eat. Even though the majority of the tourists are leaving, most of our customers are residents. One Dutch customer emailed and said he?s coming to Phuket soon and is still interested in franchising a Bagels & Beyond! So it seems like not everyone has given up on Phuket.
We have a lot to be grateful for. Other people are not so lucky. There was absolutely no warning of the tsunami traveling 400mph towards us. The biggest tragedy is that the U.S. was the first to register the quake and send out warnings. The on-line Thai newspapaer "The Nation" just let out the info that the pathetic government officials in Bangkok received the warning, sat and discussed what to do for a long time and decided to do NOTHING. Not even warn Phuket. WHY? Because IF there was NO tidal wave and the hotels being100% full, then they would have big "BROKEN FACE". Hmm, lets see... worse case scenario: if we warn people and nothing happens then we have broken face. OR we DON'T warn people and the tsunami DOES hit and thousands die. I think better not to speak and save face. OH MY GOD!!!!! Sadly this doesn't surprise me. We witness this kind of cultural paralisys every day here. In fact on the day of the tsunami we saw a fire quickly burning out of control, nearing homes. We told the police (in Thai language) who stand at the traffic circle... what did they do? They stood there and laughed and studdered like Beevis and Butthead, "Tsu... na...mi." OH MY GOD! So we went to the police station where we found some semi-interested police who maybe did something about the fire. We later went back to the site of the fire and it had been put out just before it got to some big trees.
We drove up to the highest point on the island where many others gathered. Then we drove up the coast and were in absolute shock at what we saw. It looks like a war zone. Trucks, buses, boats crumpled like tin cans and thrown up on top of buildings like toys. Other buildings and houses that were on the beach are completely GONE. Nothing left but mud and rubbish. Many bodies buried under the rubble. I just found out today that a very nice woman we knew was walking her dogs on Ya Nui beach when it hit. They found her body 800 feet into the valley the next day.
Thankfully, none of our other friend's lost their lives (as far as we know), but many friends lost their livelyhood. A yoga student?s shop in Patong is totally destroyed. Our friend?s dive shop in Kata Noi is gutted. Our friend who sells BBQ chicken out of her little tin shack near our house had her shack completely gutted. Thankfully she and her twin daughters are ok. Our friend Shy who owns Ao Sane bungalows at Ao Sane beach lost his home and restaurant ? completely gone. Three beat up trucks strewn about the beach like crumpled tin cans, his pet Sea Eagle crying in its cruel cage. Our friend Troy who owns the submarine business here didn't loose the sub, but 50% of his pre-booked customers have canceled. Our friend Chris who drives the sub was just closing the hatch with tourists inside when the wave hit! Their boat almost toppled on top of the sub, but he somehow got everyone out of the sub and onto the boat, safely to shore!
The hotel that sits right on Kata Noi beach has every single first floor window smashed into lethal shards. Beds inside the room turned up on their sides. Patong - the biggest tourist trap on the island - was the worse we saw. Total devastation. As we approached a shopping mall, we saw some people pull out a dead body. A man ran into the crowd to identify the body of someone he loved. He and a woman collapsed with their heads in their hands and cried. That was the heaviest moment for me to witness.
The dive resort area of Khao Lak got hit the hardest in Thailand. It was there that the Thai King?s grandson lost his life as he was diving. All the hotels were only a few feet from the water ? there is nothing left of them now.
It struck at a very bad time ? peak season, but it could have been a lot worse if it had struck the day before ? on Christmas when hundreds of families were on the beach ? or worse yet if it struck an hour later ? many more people would have been on the beaches. Yet still those people were sleeping in their rooms, clueless to the massive wall of black water heading their way. It was black. Divers were diving and got tossed around like leaves, unable to see anything. Some rose safely to the surface, others are still missing. A little 5 year old Thai boy was found the next day clinging to a floating tree 6 miles off the coast of Koh PeePee. When asked what happened, he said, "I don?t know, all I saw was white people dying all around me." Many children are missing parents, many parents missing their children.
Of course some people are looting and some hotels in the safe zones are charging triple, so are taxi drivers going to the airport. On the positive side, there are free flights leaving Thailand and many people are volunteering to help in any way they can.
Now we sit back at our caf? and listen to peoples? stories. We talked with a Marin/San Diego couple who have been sailing around the world for 5 years. They were heading out of Chalong bay (where we live) when the tsunami rolled in. They made a wise decision and did a 180 - turned around and SURFED the wave back into the bay! They and their boat were undamaged.
One Florida native just sailed his boat in and wants to live here, so again, some hope for the future of Phuket. Our staff on the other hand is hinting that if they go home for their pre-scheduled New Year holiday, their families will forbid them to return to Phuket. I guess we will deal with this one step at a time. I?m sure there are many people who need jobs now, so if they don?t come back, I hope we can find new staff. They?re sure another tsunami is coming. The fishermen here don't even know about what a tsunami is or does.
It?s a serious wake up call for education and an installation of a tsunami warning system. It?s also the beautiful humbling power of nature at work. Thailand has barbarically and ignorantly destroyed and paved so much beautiful nature in the last year it?s tragic. Well, now we can all see the incredible power of Mother Nature cleansing herself !
Thank you for all of your emails and support and concern. It means a great deal to me. I?ll keep you posted on the unfolding events as often as I can.
Lots of Love,
Posted by Jyllt at December 30, 2004 03:40 AM