Raderstorf World Wide Adventure

Thursday, January 27, 2005

And Now... For the Rest of the Story...

Many of you have asked what happen after Scott's initial Blog entry about the Tsunami. Here is Ben's account of the experience from start to finish :

Poseidon’s Wrath:
Tsunami

At eight AM, on December 26, 2004, an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the rector scale occurred of the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. This undersea movement displaced millions of gallons of water, causing the most devastating Tsunami in recorded history. Within hours, the enormous waves hit the shores of Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. By the end of the day, the entire Indian Ocean had been devastated by the Tsunami, taking lives as far away as Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania on the east coast of Africa. The death toll exceeded 165,000, mainly due to the fact that no tsunami warning system was in place.
At the time, I was vacationing with my family on an island in southern Thailand. This is my story:

Dec. 24, 2004
We arrived at Golden Buddha Beach resort at about six-thirty in the evening on Christmas Eve. Because the resort was on an island, we arrived by longboat. The moment my toes touched the water, I knew we had reached paradise.
Golden Buddha was located on a peninsula sheltering a lagoon. on the tip of the peninsula was a rock hill, the highest landform on the island. At the bottom of this hill, with a view of both the ocean and the lagoon, was the restaurant and common area. All of the bungalows were located on the ocean in two rows, most of them small grass roofed huts.
The bungalow in which we were staying was named Baan Fred. Many of them had been named for their owners, including Baan Patty and Baan Joe. Baan Fred was located about halfway down the beach. It had two bedrooms and two bathrooms with a sheltered outdoor sitting area in-between.
We had just started to settle in when we realized that if we wanted any Pizza, we’d have to get down to the restaurant quick. Slowly, we set off in the direction of the restaurant. As we walked along the beach, Max and Quin kept stopping to write their names in the sand making our progress slow. We were soon overtaken by another family going in the same direction.
Dad quickly started a conversation with the father who was in the lead. When Dad mentioned we were from Boulder, the man stopped and said, “That’s funny, my wife’s from Colorado.” She then introduced herself, and told us that her name was Carrie and was from Aurora. She had also spent some time in Boulder.
They then asked where in Boulder we lived and we told that we lived at 5th and Marine. “Honey,” said the man. “Isn’t that near where Frances and Elliot live?”
Frances and Elliott are our next-door neighbors. Then all the puzzle pieces fell together. It turns out we had met Roger and Carrie four years ago when she came to Colorado for a hip replacement operation. Their family stayed at the Higgins house over the holidays. We invited them over for Christmas dinner nearly four years earlier to the day. It is a small world!
Dinner that night was delicious. During the meal, we became quickly re-acquainted and soon felt like old friends. We all made our way back to our bungalow at about 10:30. Nathan, at age 7 had become good friends with Quin. But Hannah at age 9, outnumbered 4 boys to 1 girl, was still feeling a little shy.

Dec.25, 2004
The morning was Christmas. Everyone enjoyed their presents. It seems Santa had done his shopping in China as I received a Chinese MP3 player and a stamp with my name in English and Chinese. For breakfast we enjoyed delicious Thai style scrambled eggs with crunchy bacon. After breakfast, we spent the rest of the morning swimming and lounging in the warm, calm Andaman Sea.
Lunch consisted of a spicy chicken curry with warm, sweet sticky rice and fresh mango for desert. In the afternoon, Max and Quin attended some organized Christmas games while I walked the beach. The evening started with traditional Thai dancing by girls between the ages of 5 and 15 from nearby villages. The dances were the longest choreographed pieces I have ever seen, lasting almost an hour. For dinner, there was a Christmas BBQ with fresh fish, chicken and other wonderful things. As a fundraiser for the turtle conservation center, there was a Christmas “Lucky Dip”. For 100 baht, you could draw a wrapped present from Santa’s (JK) bag. I picked a flashlight and Dad drew a coupon for a free beer.
Although the presents where few and small, this was a great Christmas.

Dec. 26, 2004
The next morning, we had breakfast as usual. Max and Quin left early to build a sand castle with Nathan and Hannah. As we were just leaving the dining hall, we heard a huge crash from the beach. we ran to the shore to see that a huge wave had come almost all of the way up the beach. That is when Mom realized that Max and Quin were supposed to be on the beach, or even in the water. All five of us,
Mom, Dad, Carrie, Rodger and I, ran down the beach to our houses. When we arrived, we found them doing what they weren’t supposed to be doing, playing Gameboy at Nathan’s house.
When we returned to the beach, we saw a colossal wave about a mile out to sea. It was breaking to the south. Casually Rodger leaned over to my mom and said, “Joellen, you should probably take the kids to high ground, just in case.”
We took his advice and went to a two story house in the back row. We were standing on the second story balcony when we heard my dad shout’ “run!” A moment later we saw him come tearing around Rodger and Carrie’s house. Behind him was a wall of black water ten feet high. The sound was like nothing I had ever heard, like 10 747s taking off at once. Anything in the path of the wave was destroyed. Baan Glue Mai Par, Nathan and Hannah’s house, exploded as the water hit it full force. Trees were snapped like tooth picks and the wave kept coming. Dad barely made it up the stairs when the wall of water hit the house. All of the first floor windows were shattered. And the water poured in.
All of the kids huddled in the bathroom at the back of the house. If the house collapsed, the rear was the place to be. Quickly we removed all sharp objects or anything that would be sharp if broken, including the mirror, and the light bulbs.
We all were glued to the pane less windows and watched the utter chaos erupting all around us: We watched houses in all directions collapse as the water destroyed their foundations. We watched several injured and uninjured people being hauled from the swirling water, including Carrie and Rodger. Carrie had been unable to outrun the wave and had grabbed a tree while Rodger had stupidly gone back for his laptop and had been in his house when it was destroyed. His pinky finger had nearly been ripped off and only held on by a thread. The most critically injured were a girl named Gracie and her mother. They had both been inside their hut and had not been as lucky as Rodger. The water was about six feet deep at this point and more, smaller waves were riding on the already elevated water.
Because the very first wave had been small and unnoticed, everyone thought another wave was coming. Waves usually come in threes, the third is the biggest. After some arguing, it was decided, once the water had fully receded, we would run to the nearby monkey hill. There were about fifteen people in the house when we left for the hill. We ran as fast as we could and everyone was making sure they knew which tree was closest. The resort had been completely destroyed. Debris was everywhere and the ground had been stripped of everything but sand.
I had just started to climb the hill when someone had shouted, “run!” I looked but there was nothing to hold onto. The small amount of brush that had survived the last wave pulled right out of the ground. The wave didn’t come. Someone had gotten scared by the surf and had yelled. When we reached the top of the hill, we found about fifty other people on the hill as well as a scared monkey. We located a spot to sit down and began to pass the time away. As I was sitting down, I realized that my MP3 player was still in my pocket. Sadly the wear, and tear it had received would cause it to eventually shut down permanently.
We started to talk to pass the time away. The conversation turned from telling jokes to all of the people we were worried about: Nathan and Hannah’s friend Robin, Burt (the sixty year old manager) and a family from Sweden who had very young children. Although the four year old daughter and the two nannies had been found, the parents and the two other children were unaccounted for.
There were many injured on the hill so we were forced to go back down and look for survivors, medicine, food and water. My dad came back with a soggy but full deck of cards. We soon had a large game of cards going.
Our game did not last long. A text message was received that another wave was coming. It had already hit Phuket and would be there in less than half an hour. We were all sucked out of our fantasy world and back to reality.
When the wave was confirmed two hours later, we decided that it wasn’t coming. It was almost dark and we had to move quickly to find mosquito nets for the injured and provisions for the night. Very few of us still had hope that we would be rescued today.
The night was one of the worst times of my life. Any bad situation can be made worse by darkness. Fires had been started on the beach to attract any passing boats. Monkeys had returned to the hill and were now occupying the trees above us. Every time a wave crashed on the beach, it was enough to wake you from a partial sleep. It seemed like days before dawn finally arrived.
We descended the steep slope for what was hopefully the last time. The injured, put on makeshift stretchers, were carried down the hill. One of the Thai staff shimmied up a tree and threw down several coconuts. He climbed back down and skillfully broke them open with a sharp rock. The fresh coconut meat was welcomed by all. The signal fires were relit to create smoke. Anything from vegetable oil to dirty blankets was burned in hopes of the smoke being spotted from afar. On the lagoon side, a sea turtle had been washed up on shore and had been trying to get back to the water. We picked it up and carried it down to the water’s edge. We watched it swim away as if nothing had happened.
Suddenly, from a distance, a small noise like an engine came from the south, getting louder by the second. All around me people started to dance with joy. It was a helicopter.


Epilogue

After two tries, the Thai Royal Navy helicopter landed on the stretch of beach. Two Navy seals jumped out and soon the injured had been loaded on and the copter took off. Soon after, two more helicopters and a boat arrived. Mom, Max, Quin and I, as well as Carrie and her family, got on the second copter (a Huey without doors straight out of the Vietnam War movies). We were delivered to a small town called Takua Pa. We spent the night in a dirty hotel room across from the landing field. In the morning we took a bus to Phuket airport. There we boarded a plane that looked as if it was stolen from an ‘Indiana Jones’ movie. The flight back to Bangkok took almost four hours, when it normally takes one. My dad had arrived the previous day and was staying at one of the nicest hotels in Bangkok, where we were reunited with him. We spent over a week in Bangkok in an American man’s house. This time was spent getting new passports, new air tickets, new backpacks and new clothes.

After purchasing new backpacks and a few clothes, we headed off to explore northern Thailand riding elephants and taking cooking classes in Chang Mai, hanging out in Pai, and exploring the amazing Lod Cave in Soppong. From there we flew to Siem Reap, home of the magnificent temples of Angkor. And the adventure continues!

40 Comments:

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