San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Eyewitnesses Describe Asian Tidal Waves

CANADIAN English teacher RanjitBogan was on vacation in Patong Beach,Phuket, Thailand, when the tsunami struckDec. 26. He wrote the following account tohis friend Sunita Bhatia, a fitness trainerliving in Manuel Antonio in the southernPacific zone:“I was woken up by tremors. My hotelwas located on the beachfront. Soon after,I heard what sounded like thunder outsidemy room and then screams. I looked outsidemy room window to look at the beachand saw there was no beach left.“THE sound of the thunder was peoplerunning up the stairs to the top of the hotelfor safety and of cars and boats slamminginto the hotel.“The entire beach and main road wascompletely eradicated. The wave tossedcars and boats into hotels like they weremade of paper. As the wave subsided I sawone man carrying dead man just at the baseof the hotel. The complete first floor of myhotel was destroyed. As I looked aroundthere were hundreds of people standing onthe roofs of buildings and other hotels. Thepower of the tidal wave ripped througheverything, including a concrete wall separatingthe beach from the road in front.“BY the afternoon it looked like theworst was over, with the occasional non-threateningsmaller waves coming in. Mostof the people in my hotel fled. I walkeddown to find the entrance blocked off bydebris. I managed to walk over it to findthree destroyed cars in what used to be thehotel lobby. As I walked out I saw boatsripped apart on the street. They were thesame boats that were shown on CNN coveragefor damage in Phuket, Thailand. Thatfootage was right outside my hotel. As Iwalked around I took pictures of what usedto be Watsons Pharmacy, McDonald’s andStarbucks. They, like everything else, werecompletely destroyed. It resembled a warzone right out of a movie.”***************DAVID Swanson, from the UnitedStates, is a science teacher working inThailand who was on a day trip to a beacheast of Phuket Island when the seismic seawave struck. He wrote The Tico Timeswith his account of the disaster:“The trail to the next beach windsaround huge limestone blocks that separatethe beaches, and this is where I was whenthe wave hit, very protected in the middleof the peninsula.“I reached the beach about 30 secondsafter the wave hit, but not before a wave ofpeople rushed at me down the path. I didnot know what had happened and everyonewas too out of breath to speak.“FINALLY, one man said his boat hadtipped over. When I popped out from thetrail and could see the beach, there was nobeach as it was covered with water. Therewas debris everywhere and quite a fewboats floating upside down, all across thefront of the beach area. Some of the boatswere 40 feet long or more. Water was stillpouring off the treetops at the edge of thebeach, dripping down on me.“One guy stood on a raised concretepad and had a video camera. He showedme the video he has just shot of the wave,about four meters tall, coming in and topplingall of the boats. The wave struck thecement wall he was standing behind andcracked it off, part of which fell on his leg.That is when I realized the seriousness ofthe event. I stayed on the beach as thewater receded and helped a few other guyslook for people. We found no one, as theywere probably sucked out by the hugeundertow.“THE devastation at all three beacheson the peninsula was unbelievable, butespecially the westward facing one where Ihad first arrived. My friends, who I hadseen at this beach earlier, had gotten into along-tail boat bound for Phi Phi Island, butas they were boarding the water suddenlydisappeared, leaving the boat stranded. Itwas then they saw the wave approaching.They ran to shore and watched the wavecome in. As it got closer and crushed severalhuge yachts, they realized they neededto run. As they ran inland, chairs andtables came crashing after them from theopen-air restaurants on the beachfront.“They made it to safety somehow,however. The beach was littered with shatteredboats and motors and looked completelydifferent from when I had seen itearlier in the day. All of the water taxiboats were there in pieces on the beach,with one even up in the treetops.“…THE beach in that town (where hishotel was) had been hit badly, as well.Boats brought people in all night longfrom Phi Phi Island, as nearly everythingthere is situated on a sandbar and had beentotally destroyed. The next day, my friendsand I left the area and headed inland.“For several days we saw caravans oftrucks and cars bringing in emergency supplies.The sound of helicopters was constantfrom shortly after the time the wavehit until several days later.”

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