News

Witnesses Recall Tidal Wave Disaster

Nancy-Amelia Collins

As the death toll mounts after tidal waves swept across Asia Sunday following a 9.0 earthquake that struck near the Indonesian island of Sumatra, survivors struggle to comprehend what happened.

British tourist Caroline Woods was strolling through a beach-front market on the southern Thai resort island of Phuket Sunday when suddenly she saw people running and shouting.

The mother of four says she turned to walk through the market entrance, which faces the ocean, to see what the commotion was about.

"Normally, when you turned around there you'd see the horizon, so you'd see the sea and then you'd see the sky, and instead when I turned around all I could see was the sea. It was just the sea has just blocked the sky. It was obviously the point when this whole thing was coming in. And the people outside had obviously seen it and were screaming," she described.

Frantic to reach her children who were with her sister at the hotel, the London native ran toward her lodgings.

"The water just came over the road and my partner was trying to get me to stay put and all I could think about was getting back to the children," she continued.

Ms. Woods says there was chaos all around her, but eventually she managed to reach her children, who were unharmed.

"So we were wading through the water, there were petrol barrels emptying petrol and stinging my legs, ambulances floating, [we were] treading on things, not knowing what was what, cars were floating down the road, one lady had her foot chopped off," she recalled.

The earthquake that struck off the western coast of Sumatra sent tidal waves crashing all over the region - from Indonesia to Malaysia and Thailand, to India and as far away as Somalia in Africa.

Thousands of people are dead and millions displaced in the aftermath of the biggest earthquake in four decades.

Among those killed Sunday was the grandson of the King of Thailand, 21-year-old Bhumi Jensen, who was vacationing in Phuket with his mother Princess Ubolratana.

Waves as high as 10 meters swept away everything in their path, from sunbathers and fisherman to trucks and boats. Millions of homes and businesses were destroyed across the region.

Australian Graham Doven, a publisher who has lived on Phuket for 15 years, says people there are in shock.

"There was just a lot of people stunned, you know, they were just standing around staring at what I guess were their businesses and shops, just unable to comprehend at this point," he said. "Other people were getting stuck into cleaning up already, somebody managed to actually reopen last night who lost all the walls of his establishment."

The tidal waves struck with little or no warning on the sunny Sunday morning.

Ms. Woods, who vacations every year on Phuket, worries about the future of the island and its people.

"And it's a beautiful island, the people are so lovely and now we're sitting here in this swanky hotel drinking a Singha beer and they're sitting on the beach and crying because they've got nothing left," said Ms. Woods.

She cannot understand why there was no warning about the tsunami risk after the quake struck.

"Why didn't we know this was coming? If they knew that an earthquake had happened, why didn't they know that there were likely to be these tidal waves and why didn't they tell Phuket?" she questioned.

An official with Thailand's Seismological Bureau says the country does not have an international warning system. Australian Prime Minister John Howard says his government will consider helping set up a tsunami warning system for countries around the Indian Ocean, but the program first needs to be researched.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs