On 26 December 2004, Phuket was among a vast swathe of areas hit by the powerful tsunami that was unleashed by the earthquake off Sumatra, Indonesia. I was among the lucky ones, having been at home with my husband 2 kilometres inland when the waves hit just after 10am.
|Kata Beach restaurants & shops, 1 day after the tsunami|
The next day, after it was deemed safe to return to the coastline, we went out to a few beaches to check the damage. It was a shocking and surreal sight. Debris of all description strewn across the sand, buildings punched out by the incredible force of water that pushed against them, some well known and frequently visited shops and restaurants completely wiped out.
|Nai Harn Beach, 1 day after the tsunami|
Being 9 months pregnant, I didn’t venture into the worst-hit beaches of Phuket or Phang Nga. Now, after hearing some of the harrowing stories of my friends who did go into the hell zones to assist, I’m regretful I was unable to offer hands-on help, but somewhat relieved I didn’t see the worst of the carnage, to be frank.
The wreckage has long been cleared away but for some the images still linger and haunt.
Reactions to this event varied widely. The strangest was seeing some tourists, obviously keen to continue on with their holidays, making their own little sunbathing areas on the sand at Kata Beach. Broken umbrellas speared into the sand, a few sun loungers scrounged up. There they were in their bathing suits, soaking up the rays of the brilliant sunny sky while all around them locals and other tourists were busy cleaning up the rubble.
|Sun-seeking tourists share the sands with tsunami wreckage, Kata Beach|
One wonders what these tourists told their friends and family about their escape to paradise.
“Aside from those bothersome killer waves, we’re having a brilliant time! Sun, sand and (a little bit too much) sea!”
I don’t usually advocate violence, but on that day, there were certainly some people I would have loved to slap into consciousness.
Seven years later, Phuket has largely moved on, but one hopes those still suffering from the aftermath are finding renewed sources of strength and love in their journey.
|Tourists and boatmen together drag a long-tail back to sea, Kata Beach|