In Memoriam: The Boxing Day Tsunami of Thailand
This is a personal refection by long-time Thailand resident Andrew J. Wood who recently visited the area in Thailand that was badly devastated by the tragic events on December 26, 2004. His memories are from that day in that year which became known as the Boxing Day Tsunami.
“Sitting at my resort in Phang Nga province in Southern Thailand a few weeks ago, I was quietly having my breakfast, and my thoughts turned to the tragic events 15 years earlier. I was staying at a resort that was badly hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami. The resort was flattened by the huge 15-meter-high wave that made landfall all along the beaches of Khao Lak.
“In those 15 years, the resorts have been rebuilt – the area is renowned for its beautiful white sandy beaches and is once again filled with tourists, mainly from Europe escaping the winter weather of the northern hemisphere.
“Unfortunately, very few Thais visit now – they still remember the sadness and death.
“The sea here is very shallow which enabled a massive wave to build unhindered from its origins in Sumatra and wiped out everything including 400 guests and a lot of the hotel staff on duty – they all perished on that fateful Boxing Day morning.
“There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. All trees were flattened, and all buildings were mostly low-rise. It was Thailand’s first great tsunami so, there were no systems in place. Today, tsunami warning towers with huge sirens allow hotels and resorts 1 hour to evacuate by bus to higher ground. They practice every year. Not surprisingly it is taken very seriously, and everyone pays close attention.
“I feel sadness but also thankful that life has returned along with the tourists.
“I’m also blessed to be able to experience its rejuvenation. It reminds me of the phrase “carpe diem” – seize the day.
“Every day is a gift.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who suffered loss and to all those unsung heroes, many of them tourists, tour guides, and hotel staff, caught up in the chaos on that fateful day – my thanks.”