Totally gripping first-person account from the tsunami. This is only one of hundreds of thousands of stories…
I’ve been getting literally hundreds of emails from people asking me and about my experience during the Indian Ocean tsunami. Long story short, lucky to be alive. I’ve been evaced to Male, after the experience…Here’s my account:
So much for my vacation. | Metafilter
I was in my office at the narrowest part of the island (20 meters across) at the northern end with the sand bank, when I heard a strange bump against the wall outside my office, I ran down the hall to find water streaming in under the door and I could barely open it. As I got it open my eyes popped out of my head when I saw the sea was not only level with our island, there was a wall of water coming, frothing, boiling, and fucking angry as hell, bearing down on us. In the distance, I watched as the 50 water bungalows that lined the reef edge were disintegrating like matchwood dumping guests and furniture into the sea. Eddies and vortexes whirled round and there was a strange mist everywhere, smelled like death, as this wave moved towards us in slow motion. I remember turning to run towards someplace safe. But how can you be safe, 1 meter above the sea, water on all sides, with just flimsy thatch buildings made of coconut wood all around, and a wall of water bearing down? I literally stopped breathing, and ran. I didn’t get very far, as a wave smashed me against the wall of the executive offices and instantly my cell phone, keys, watch, ID and wallet were sucked out of my pockets. As I struggled to stand up I heard screams as children and guests were washed past me through reception straight out to sea… I grabbed the ones I could and screamed at them to hang onto my arm, and we inched our way along the wall that was now breaking up from the pressure of the water….in front of us were guests running like crazy from the disintegrating water bungalows and water restaurant that had now collapsed….
As the water rose, Planks and debris smashed up against the walls of the exec offices, and the next thing I knew, the next wave came and tore it open, washing away staff, computers, hard drives, and filing cabinets in a second, straight out to sea. As I reached reception with the two guests I threw them on top of the counter as mattresses and tables and broken windows smashed through the reception, taking everything with it. By now the water was up to my chest, and I grabbed an 80 year old woman who was just drifting past, and hauled her up on top as well. The next thing we knew, the guest shop and water sports center collapsed, and terrified people, on the roof, were desperately clinging to it as the thatch fell apart. My staff stood there on top of the counter, as guests screamed and grabbed them. One security guard handed me a talkie and fled. As the water was continuing to rise, so fast it was like a horror movie, I frantically called out on the talkie to see if any staff were there. No answer. By now I could not hang on any longer and hauled myself up onto the counter, as the big debris from the water bungalows tore through reception, taking what was left of the shops and offices. We were left there, with water surging all around us, with a wall behind us that collapsed into the jewelry store. Then a guest showed me her husbands leg, with a gash so bad I could see his bone, and I frantically got a towel to stop the bleeding. with 2 meters of water in the lobby now, waves 1-2 meters higher, All I could think was how long before we die. how far does the water have to go before we are all washed away into the middle of the Indian ocean? We stayed like this for about 20 minutes, just waiting for the building to collapse, but as suddenly as it came, the water vanished, leaving fish flopping on the floor, and seaweed draped everywhere. As we tried to take stock of what had happened, I looked in the opposite direction of where the wave had come and saw, to my horror, that it was coming back, bigger, madder, and full of dangerous debris…..
Some guests and kids had thought the worst was over, and were starting to get off the trees and remaining roofs. I screamed at them THE WATER’S COMING BACK!!!! STAY OFF THE BEACH!!! And we had even less warning the second time, because the wave just crashed into us with refrigerators, water heaters, computers and smashed wood. We rode out the wave, just waiting to die, as the guest with the gashed leg fainted. His wife was grabbing my throat so hard I could hardly breathe, and for the next 20 minutes the water was up and we could do nothing as the reverse wave filled the lagoon and destroyed what was left of the restaurant, we watched tables get dumped into the water, and 3 gas canisters from the kitchen exploded. With smaller waves now, I tried to evacuate the guests to the other, larger end of the island, I realized the island had been cut in half, a deep dangerous trench had developed and we were trapped. Just then, a second series of waves came through, as large as the first 4, and desperately we ran to the spa, where a cement building without its roof still remained. There, I found other guests with 4 broken bones, massive cuts, and twisted ankles. For the next four hours, we watched as these waves came again and again, some as high as the first, as debris from coconut trees to roofs washed back and forth, as the only staff there, I set up a triage unit to treat the people with the resort doctor (who was so traumatized he could barely speak) about 2 hours into this, we heard a seaplane land in the lagoon…. And I grabbed the talkie and ran down the jetty, screaming at them to take off….
It was too late, they had tied up to the pontoon, and They could not see the water was now coming back, and the eddies were so strong that the plane (with its engines still screaming) was actually being sucked underneath the water…. I ducked down, expecting the engines to disintegrate, but at the last moment, a cabin crew cut the rope, the plane bobbed away and took off, dipping its wings to show us help was coming. Eventually we go all the guests at one end of the island, but walking past the rooms, every single one had been demolished, and suitcases and passports were washed up on the beach. That afternoon, we sandbagged a building and got all the guests inside, and waited for the next waves, which we heard were coming. At least we were safer than at reception, where 30-40 meters of the island had been destroyed, washed out to sea. That night, we set up beach patrols to watch for more waves and 2 times had to send out the alarm that the water was coming back. With the moon full, we had a high tide at midnight, and we were extremely concerned if the waves came back. They didn’t. we had no food or water as everything had been washed away, we watched the sun rise and everywhere on the beach were passports, champagne bottles, smashed wood, brochures and business cards not just from our resort but from others too. It took us 2 days to get the guests off, and another day for the staff to leave. We got to male with no belongings, as the staff quarters were washed away completely, it wasn’t until we got to male that we had even heard of the devastation everywhere else. I’m in Male now, waiting to go home if I can get a flight.
More news soon, Dave