Tsnumai Truths

My personal account of the Tsunami 2004 as I experienced it in Phuket, Thailand.
Not only is it about the tangible destruction that it created but also the unveiling of social breakdowns between loved ones.

This is my story. I hold no bars.


1. Boxing Day 2004


26th December 2004

I now understand exactly what hysteria is. Today I saw firsthand, an unbearably devastating act of God. At 8’o’clock this morning I woke up, not really wanting to as last night was a very messy, loud and terribly fun night. It was Christmas after all, and what a place to spend it. Thailand, Phuket, Bangla Road; right in the middle of all the commotion, right where I wanted to be. I’ve been in Thailand about a year now and I’m loving it I was loving it. We all got ready to go down to The Brass Monkey (my dad’s bar) to have good Boxing Day breakfast. I was surprised at how tidy Bangla Road was even after last night. Anyway, Noo and I were sat down eating and my dad was dealing with the technician who had come in to fix the DJ deck; he had to stay quite a while and it was a slow process because my dad didn’t speak any Thai so Noo had to translate a lot and her English isn’t exactly great. By about half past nine I had finished my food and was admiring the beautiful weather and noting how while I’m sat in the glorious sun on Boxing Day, all my friends, my mum and the rest of my family were all probably sat inside, not wanting to face the callous cold that was the English winter.  


All of a sudden the atmosphere changed, not just the atmosphere of the bar but of the whole world it seemed. It was silent almost; the calm before the storm. What happened next is such a blur because it all happened so rapidly; I remember hearing shouting, a lot of shouting and my step mum grabbing me by the arm and pulling at me with all her might and just shouting and shouting. My dad was nowhere in sight and the technician had also fled. Noo pulled me after her as she ran up onto the second story of a bar called Tiger across and up the street a little bit from my dad’s bar. What is going on? What the HELL is going on? I remember thinking to myself and trying to ask but I was being pulled so quickly that words just couldn’t come out of my mouth. When we got to the top balcony I heard an almighty crash, a mighty crash, a boom, a sound that you only hear in films. I turned around to face the street below me and I did just in time to see a child and parent swept off their feet by the carpet of ferocious sea that God had decided to unroll onto the land. The feeling I felt was just complete fear, so much fear that it enveloped me and hollowed out my entire body, it wasn’t like I was seeing it through my eyes, I was watching myself watching it and doing nothing. It felt like my brain couldn’t deal with what it had just witnessed and wanted to get as far away from it as possibly, yet at the same time it was fascinated by what was happening. I was just watching the water rip into the buildings tearing out pieces of brick and wood and metal, stirring them all up and then spitting them out in all directions, hitting other buildings and people. I know there was sound but I just couldn’t hear it, I could see people screaming, but there was no sound to accompany it, just the sound of the water which was all I could see, all frothing up and clawing at the buildings and the road. I realised my face was wet but it wasn’t from the wave of sea, they were tears, I had been crying and not even noticed I was doing so, that’s how disconnected I was from everything.


As reality began to take control again, I noticed my dad was nowhere to be seen. Now I was really worried, at first it was like I was watching everything through a television, but now, feeling the fear of the unknown, it very much made me feel a part of what had just happened. I asked Noo if she knew where he was. She just looked at me and said nothing. After the water beneath us had settled we made our way down to the street. The water came all the way up to my thighs, and walking through it was difficult, it wasn’t clear water so you couldn’t see where you were stepping. I trod on something soft but hard which I instinctively knew was a human body. I felt very faint and wanted to be sick but knew that we had to get going to the bar. When we had run to get up to safety we didn’t have time to shut the shutters on the bar like most of the others on the road had done, to save what was inside. Everything had been devoured. The bar, the stage, the statue of the Red Indian had all gone. While I was down there I saw my dad wading towards us, I went to go give him a hug and say how thankful I was he was alright; but he just went straight past me and into the bar, carrying a stool he had managed to save. He made me so angry, I made myself angry by actually caring when I didn’t see him, and he clearly cared for nothing but his precious bar. A part of me was slightly happy that it had all been ruined. Is it right that a natural disaster to figure out what kind of inhumane person you’re father is?


About two hours after it had all happened, a lot of people started to come down, the water had started to subside and was now just below my knees. There were people trying to salvage as much as they could of their business, not least of which my father. There were other poorer Thai people who were looting whatever they could find from the streets and even out of the actually buildings. I have never seen people looking so desperate in all my life. We were all trying to find things that were ours but it was so difficult, the best thing we could really do was come back early in the morning when all the water had gone. There were  a lot of police around by now trying to keep things safe, when out of nowhere they started shouting at everyone, and herding people to move up Bangla Road.


Another wave. People started running as fast as they could through the water, which made things so difficult, trying to run in water that high was just so hard, you felt like you were getting nowhere and all you can hear is screaming and all you can see is dirty water. Noo was pulling me again trying to get the both of us out of everything and again I lost my dad, but this time my heart didn’t sink. Around me was the purest sense of hysteria I’ve ever experienced. You knew that only one thing was going through these people’s minds and that was, “am I going to die?” people were pushing and grabbing and falling everywhere. I lost my shoe in the frantic scene that was Bangla Road, and ended up cutting my foot on something sharp that was under the mudded water. There wasn’t another wave, it was a false alarm. I was relived yet so very frustrated that it had worried so many people including myself for no reason.


We ended up after that returning home, there was no more we could really do at this point. Luckily for us our house was on top of a mountain so at least we still had. We flagged down a tuc-tuc and made our journey home. And here I am writing this, I think this is a big thing. A worldwide thing. My father said the whole world will know about it by the evening. Only time can tell.


28th December 2004

They’ve given it a name. The killing water beast now has a name. Tsunami, it means big wave. Father was right it is all over the news; my mum was told to watch the news on Boxing Day, and saw that Bangla Road has been destroyed. That was the only address she had for me. My sick father thought it would be a funny idea to tell my mum I was dead. Sick, sick, sick. I finally understand what kind of a person he is.


We’ve been down to Bangla Road some more to try and get things sorted, in all honesty it’s quite hopeless, all I can do when I’m there is look at how devastating the scene is. Now the water has all gone it’s so much worse. The smell, Oh my God the smell; the streets outside smell like rotting fish and burning corpses, mingled with the repulsive scent of human waste; it’s such an overwhelming stench, so dense and choking that it manages to get right up into your nose and plant itself up there. I feel this smell will follow me forever and haunt me. This is the aroma of death. God only knows how many bodies are still out there hidden under all the debris; I myself have seen well over 50 dead people lying in the road, or washed up on Patong Beach. I’m twelve years old and I’ve seen more corpses than most people my age in Britain. I’m guessing there is only more to come.


The world outside is like a very messed up Dr Susse creation, things aren’t in their places. Cars are piled on top of one another, vehicles are in swimming pools, the roads are torn up and the beached are speckled with arms, legs and torsos. Trees are uprooted, and the road cannot be seen for all the scatterings of rubbish that is there. We drove along the coast, alongside Patong Beach last night when it was pitch black. It was horrid, the fact that you knew the sea was out there just a few feet to your right, and that that was what had caused so much death in one fail swoop. The fact I couldn’t see it made me more aware it was there. It’s scary to think just how unstable the world really is.

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