Dec. 26th was a warm sunny day on the beaches of Thailand.
It was our third day on this beach community of Railay.
I wanted to take a boat out into the ocean and climb a rock
called Ao Nang Tower. We had a late start, so we decided
to stay on the mainland. That decision was probably the
single most important decision of the day, considering how
the day would unfold.
calm before the Tsumami: Nothing could prepare the inhabitants
and the holiday makers for what was to follow
started up my third climb and almost made it to the top,
but had to take a break about five feet from the anchor
at the top. I hung off a bolt getting mentally psyched for
my last moves to the top. All of a sudden there was commotion
down below. People started screaming and running. I watched
dumbfounded for about 20 seconds. I didn't have a clue as
to what was going on. I yelled to be lowered. Once on the
ground, someone yelled to me "Big wave coming!".
I was still tied to the rope. I had to untie the knot and
it was nerve wrecking. It took me about 10 seconds, but
felt like an eternity. The same rope that had protected
me could have led to my doom. My friend Adam and I started
running inland. In my haste, I neglected to turn around
and take a look at the wave. Probably a good thing. Every
second counted, as I would later find out.
ran as fast as we could and followed some locals, as they
would best know where to take shelter. What scared me the
most was the look of terror on their faces. They were shaking
with fear. At this point we turned it up a notch and we
bolted up the hillside, passing people, pulling on vines
and branches. Once up top we talked to several tourists
as they gradually appeared. One had a cell phone--he had
found out that there was an earthquake in Indonesia and
Thailand had been hit by a tsunami. But the bit of information
that scared us the most was that there would be aftershocks
and more tidal waves were coming. We tried to figure out
how high we were on the hill top and guessed about 150 feet.
I was not even sure we were safe there. I was very concerned
about my mother and family in Bangladesh, Bangladesh being
quite vulnerable to natural disasters.
people had cell phones up top and we were getting bits of
information. We heard that Phi Phi, an island nearby, was
obliterated. We also heard Phuket had been hit with waves
several stories high. As for Railay, we weren't sure what
was happening. No one had accurate information. We couldn't
go down because we didn't know when the next wave was going
to hit. We were able to find a lookout into the ocean and
the sea looked calm, but that didn't mean there wouldn't
be more waves. At about 4 pm Adam and I decided to go down
and assess our position. We descended the trail and as soon
as we hit the ground we saw a dead body being moved and
we too lent a hand. We knew that the sights we would see
would not be pleasant. The shops and structures along the
beach had been damaged. We saw another dead body being moved.
Later a helicopter appeared and we were guessing it was
ferrying the dead and wounded. There was a boat in our resort's
swimming pool. Another one had been thrown into the reception
area. There were dead fish in some rooms.
night we stayed up high. I paid to use someone's cell phone
and got through to my mother in Bangladesh almost immediately.
My mother was in tears. Bangladesh and Thailand are almost
in the same time zone and she'd been following the tsunami
on the news. Letting her know I was safe was a big relief.
But how safe was I? I really didn't know. Things were certainly
not normal. I didn't know what was in store for us.
the next day huge ferries were arriving to evacuate people
off Railay to Krabi. Being in the ferry was nerve wrecking.
We were travelling the same seas that had claimed so many
lives less than a day ago. Our flight from Krabi left the
next day, so Adam and I decided to spend the night in Krabi.
Even though Krabi seemed safe, it was still off the coast
of the Andaman Sea. My mind would not rest until we were
shock from the Tsunami and the devastation and deaths Adam
and I had witnessed left us distraught and disturbed. We
were physically unscathed, but mentally worn. We met a man
who had survived the tsunami in Phuket. All he had left
were the clothes he was wearing. He had held onto a tree
and miraculously survived. He didn't know if his friends
next day we flew to Bangkok. Bangkok airport was a scene.
Consulate and embassy officials were standing with their
countries flags and signs. It was obvious that this was
an international catastrophe with many countries affected.
After a quiet night in Bangkok, Adam left for the United
States and I caught my flight to Dhaka the next morning.
Arriving at Dhaka and meeting my family was the best reunion
I have ever had.
feel extremely lucky to have survived this disaster. A series
of lucky decisions and I am still alive. I was planning
to venture out into the ocean that day to climb from a boat--that
could have been fatal. Adam and I had planned to kayak
and snorkel one day--that could have been fatal.
We were right in the middle of the tsunami, but we were
able to take shelter in the hills.
hope and pray for the people all over the world who have
suffered incomprehensible loss. I urge every single person
who can help, to do so, in any little way they can. Entire
families have been wiped out. In some villages, generations
have been wiped out. Children have been orphaned. It's our
responsibility as citizens of this world to share what we
have and help rebuild the lives of the survivors.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004