Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Midnight Earthquake

Shuttle vans tore through the streets, evacuating hotel guests. An Italian family sprinted towards a waiting cab, the father literally throwing suitcases into the trunk before tossing his son onto the driver’s lap. Businesses shut, TV’s turned on. This time they were prepared for the worst on the west coast of Thailand.

Pisarn Saruk, working the overnight shift at the beachside Ao Nang Princeville Resort knocked on every occupied door when word came just before midnight. “I say ‘They have an earthshake in Indonesia.’ I tell the tourist, ‘We have a game plan for the tsunami again, don’t worry,’” Saruk said. “If tsunami comes we’ll run into the mountain.”

The game plan for most was to go up the hill that leads away from the shore. Few panicked but many walked briskly. A tourist, jogging for higher ground, paused to speak to Roj Om. “What do you know?” he asked.

“Smaller than last time. It’s better if you go a little into the mountain,” Om said.

But Om, 20, didn’t take his own advice. Like a few dozen Thais and foreigners he sat on the seawall looking out into the water.

“I don’t think it’s coming again,” Om said. “First time it’s coming nobody know. Now second time everybody know. I don’t believe that one, that the tsunami is coming again….I will stay here.”

While some evacuated far and hastily, most strolled up the hill and sat down a half a mile from the ocean, staring back down into the darkness towards the water. Police organized themselves a short way up the hill but allowed traffic in both directions.

It was the most action this beach community has seen in some time. Though Ao Nang suffered little damage compared to neighboring Ko Phi Phi, only a fraction of the usual number of high season tourists are in western Thailand now and most businesses were already closing on a slow Monday night when word spread of a possible tsunami.

By 2am the streets were emptying and tourists who had watched TV news coverage in the few open bars grabbed their bags and started walking back down the hill. Lars Karlsson, traveling with his family from Sweden, followed the wary group back to their beachside hotel. “We hear the news on CNN and from Sweden: No Tsunami. So we’ll go back to our bungalow now.”


At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was probably the most intense moment of mine and Al's trip. You could see the terror in the locals faces. I didn't think there was going to be another tsunami, but just seeing that they were re living it all was enough to bring anyone to tears. I am proud of you for doing this Brook. Extreamly proud. Thailand should not be a feared places to be, I talk to our friends there on a weekly basis and tourism still isn't where is should be...AND IT SHOULD ! Thanks to you and your awarness, thinkgs could be looking up. You're an amazing man B. Thanks for all the good times... Monique

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Brook said...

Monique! How are you? I've been trying to get in touch with you but your e-mail doesn't work anymore. What's your new e-mail? Mine is brook@amapforsaturday.com


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