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December 29, 2004

Families were swimming and playing: then the holiday ended: Horror scene at quake's center

Topics: International News

The following two news articles bring us an account of families that were relaxing, playing together, and enjoying their vacation in a setting that could only be described as a tranquil tropical paradise when literally moments later their lives and the lives of their loved ones were ripped from their grasp by the very nature that they  had traveled so far to enjoy. The incredible indescribable pain of so suddenly loosing one's wife, husband, child, parent, grandparent, or friend immediately tore through their chests with the seering reality of their loss. The moments that they had shared with their loved ones just seconds before the wave hit became engrained in their minds and hearts forever. Precious moments - precious life. All of us should try to feel their sorrow and deep pain, let it simmer in our hearts, then look at our loved ones and give them a hug with an accompanied expression of "I love you," and mean it. Precious moments can occur as often as we wish while our loved ones are alive, but their passing can occur without warning, and those moments that we could have had but never took, are gone forever - never to return.

Just how incredibly horrible has the devastation and loss of life been? Two news articles, two perspectives, one of a few families, the other of the family of man - our fellow human beings and the terrible suffering they are enduring.

Examples of the terror can be seen in the following snipets:

(...)   Islands off the northwest Sumatran coast such as Simeulue, population 130,000, and smaller nearby islands, also took the brunt of the magnitude 9.0 quake and ensuing walls of water. "No one's heard anything," Mr Charlesworth said.
(...)   "A brief statement from Indonesia's disaster and refugees co-ordinating body late yesterday described Meulaboh as 'razed' and Simeulue as 'sunk'."
(news.com.au)

(...)   An Australian woman was forced to let go of one of her children to save another when a wall of water struck their Thai holiday destination. 

(...)   Jillian Searle, of Perth, was near her Phuket hotel pool with sons Lachie, five, and Blake, two, when the tsunami hit on Sunday.

(...)   Her husband Brad watched the calamity unfold from the vantage point of his first-floor room.

(...)   Ms Searle was faced with a terrible choice as she fought to stay alive amid the raging waters.

(...)   "I knew I had to let go of one of them and I just thought I'd better let go of the one that's the oldest," she told Sky News.

(...)   "A lady grabbed hold of him for a moment but she had to let him go because she was going under.

(...)   "And I was screaming, trying to find him, and we thought he was dead."

(...)   Sky News said Lachie was found safe two hours later after surviving the raging torrent by clinging to a door.
The Australian via The Command Post

-The Herald.co.uk Dec  28.

AT least 15 Britons were dead and thousands more stranded in south and east Asia in the aftermath of the huge waves that flooded the region.

      Yesterday, Scots spoke of their ordeals after they were caught up in sea surges that wiped out entire communities.

      Gavin Marshall, from Bearsden, near Glasgow, told how disaster struck as he and his wife went for a morning swim at Ko Lanta, Thailand.

     Mr Marshall, tired after having to spend the night in the jungle away from the shoreline, said: "We were having a morning swim. The kids were playing on the beach and my wife noticed a very large wave breaking at the end of the bay.

      "At first we just thought we hadn't noticed it before . . . then the horizon became black and it was obvious it was a very large wave coming towards the beach."

     Mr Marshall said he and his family stood and watched, then returned to their villa 100 metres back from the shoreline.

"The first wave hit, and it washed up on to the shoreline villas, washing through them. "We packed as much as we could as quickly as we could before the second wave hit, which washed out some more villas further back."

Scot Neil Butler, his wife and two children, were caught up in the chaos and fled for their lives as the wall of water struck the hotel they own in Sri Lanka. Mr Butler, 50, a director of the arts organisation UZ, and 40 British friends had been enjoying a festive party in the Sunbeach Hotel, south of Colombo. It was reduced to rubble and they were left waist-deep in water. Yesterday, trapped in an isolated village, Mr Butler used his mobile phone to call Gay Barker, his sister, to tell her he and the rest of the family were safe. Mrs Barker said: "They are in a very dangerous situation. The water has become polluted and Neil is trying to get everyone out of there."

Richard Pratt, 35, an award-winning British photographer, was in Hikkaduwa, about six miles north of Galle, Sri Lanka, with four friends when the tsunami struck. He contacted his parents in Garmouth, near Fochabers in Moray, yesterday to let them know he was safe. His mother, Jenny Pratt, 61, said: "He came out of the bedroom and noticed water all around the floor. Then he looked up and he saw this huge great mass of sea. He said it wasn't like a wave but the whole of the sea area seemed to lift up. "They held on to the window frame of the hotel, he and his mate, then the wave came back again. They have been cut and bruised quite badly."

     Other Scots told how they saw the killer waves bearing down on their......  Continue reading..

-news.com.au (Australia) Dec 30.

THE first shocking images of Sumatra's devastated west coast emerged yesterday, leading authorities to dramatically increase the estimated toll from Sunday's disaster.

This, in turn, has increased the pressure on Australia to take a leading role in the reconstruction of tsunami-hit Indonesia.

Troops arriving in Meulaboh in Aceh province reported 10,000 bodies lying in the streets of the city, population 100,000, which was 80 per cent destroyed by the quake and resulting tsunami.

A reconnaissance flight covering about 160km of the Sumatran coast between Banda Aceh and Meulaboh revealed no signs of life, all main structures destroyed and sea water about 2km inland.

Vice-President Yusuf Kalla said 30,000 to 40,000 were estimated to have died in Aceh, making Indonesia by far the worst affected of the 10 nations hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami. The international death toll passed 80,000 yesterday as thousands more bodies were recovered from the beaches, mud and rubble of Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

But with great tracts of northern Sumatra still under surging ocean and no word from many isolated communities, officials warned the toll would jump - to perhaps as high as 100,000 - when contact was finally made with the area emerging as the quake's ground zero.

The US has sent the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and five other ships to the region to help relief efforts, and added $US20 million ($26 million) to its initial $US15 million aid funding.

Last night, the Howard Government was also considering sending a helicopter-equipped navy vessel to Indonesia to boost relief efforts.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer increased the nation's immediate aid commitment to $35 million, including $10 million earmarked for Aceh, but warned that Australia would eventually commit "considerably more than that, particularly helping the rehabilitation of some of these communities that have been utterly devastated".

"I think it's going to be a very expensive exercise for Australia, but it's also the fact of life that we have very great responsibilities," he said.

It is understood that senior Australian government officials are already contemplating the prospect of a substantial Australian contribution to the multi-billion-dollar reconstruction of northern Sumatra once the immediate humanitarian needs have been met.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned late yesterday that the toll around the Indian Ocean rim would be "thousands, thousands if not tens of thousands, more than the figure that is generally being used now", but Jakarta Red Cross spokesman Phil Charlesworth predicted that Aceh, on the northwest tip of Indonesia's largest island, could by itself deliver the kind of figures Mr Annan expected.

"There's a population on the northwest side of Sumatra of 100,000, and most of those are unaccounted for," Mr Charlesworth said.

An exhausted Indonesian policeman who arrived in Meulaboh yesterday reported only a few hundred survivors in the coastal town of Calang which, until Sunday's monumental quake, had been a 6000-strong fishing community.

Department of Social Affairs spokesman Amrun Daulay said three ships with medicine and food were due to arrive at Meulaboh harbour last night.

Islands off the northwest Sumatran coast such as Simeulue, population 130,000, and smaller nearby islands, also took the brunt of the magnitude 9.0 quake and ensuing walls of water. "No one's heard anything," Mr Charlesworth said.

"A brief statement from Indonesia's disaster and refugees co-ordinating body late yesterday described Meulaboh as 'razed' and Simeulue as 'sunk'."

To the southeast of Simeulue, the surfing mecca of Nias Island, population 500,000, was also hard hit "and the situation there is not good", Mr Charlesworth said.

While the UN has devoted extra teams to most of the stricken zones around the Indian Ocean basin, spokesman Oliver Hall said it was the isolated nature of the northwest Sumatran coast and outlying islands that pointed to a greatly increased death toll there over coming days.

"The reason why the west coast of Sumatra was so badly hit was the fact it suffered first the earthquake, then the tsunami. It virtually had no chance," Mr Hall said. A massive toll from disease is also likely as emergency services crumble under the pressure.

Another key place where accurate figures may not be known for days and where resistance to international aid efforts may prove deadly is Burma. The historically closed Government has been extremely guarded with releasing information.

A figure of 60 dead has been reported but it is expected the coming days will reveal a much clearer - and far grimmer - picture.

DEATH TOLL RISING THE confirmed number of people killed in the massive earthquake and tidal waves that struck Indian Ocean shorelines at the weekend passed 80,000 today, amid warnings the true toll could be far higher.

In Indonesia a health ministry spokesman said the country's toll was more than 45,000 after it took the full force of Sunday's huge earthquake and tidal waves that swallowed entire coastal villages.

In Sri Lanka at least 22,493, including at least 100 foreigners, were killed by the tidal waves, the president's office said.

The death toll in India hit 10,850 with many thousands still missing, officials said.

More than 1800 people, among them more than 700 foreign tourists, were killed in southern Thailand, officials said. They feared that many of around 5000 people still missing were foreign tourists.

In Burma at least 90 people were killed, according to the UN, while 65 people were dead in Malaysia, officials said.

At least 55 people including two British holiday-makers were killed in the tourist paradise of the Maldives while another 69 were missing, officials said.

In Bangladesh a father and child were killed after a tourist boat capsized in large waves, officials said.

Fatalities also occurred on the east coast of Africa where 100 fishermen were declared dead in Somalia, 10 in Tanzania and one in Kenya.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake west of the Indonesian island of Sumatra measured 9.0 on the Richter scale - making it the largest quake worldwide in four decades.

- with Agence-France Presse and Reuters

Posted by Hyscience at December 29, 2004 12:34 PM



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