This page is dedicated to all 2004 December 26th Boxing Day Tsunami Victims, those injured, and those otherwise affected by these huge waves. The Impossible: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1649419/
>>>> Tsunami Warning Center: http://ptwc.weather.gov/
My brother John was in Khao Lak, southern Thailand the morning of December 26, 2004 and barely escaped with his life. Khao Lak was “ground zero” for the Tsunami in Thailand. He has put together a fantastic site detailing his Tsunami experience – including “his story”, to the second timelines, relevant maps, photos, his emails, and media coverage. John was staying at Mai’s Quiet Zone.
Another friend was in Krabi and watched the devastation as it happened from a hill. He spent time at a small local hospital volunteering in the days afterwards. When he finished his volunteering he raised a substantial of money and personally donated it to small villages and those most in need.
Another friend decided to get up early that day and was on a hill above Khao Lak and watched the first waves roll in. Usually this person sleeps in late while on vacation. Another man watched the water recede, saw the first white large wave in the distance, had a gut feeling something was wrong, jumped on his motorcycle and fortunately had enough time head start to outrun the wave
Other friends fortuitously didn’t make it out of Bangkok even though they had purchased tickets to go to the southern Islands in the days before the Tsunami. The reason: they were having a suit tailored and the tailor was late in delivering it so they missed their train.
I met someone who was at his grandchild’s birthday party in Florida when he got the news. He quickly bought a plane ticket and spent 16 days doing body ID and other work for the Tsunami relief center in Khao Lak. The amount of volunteer work and help people have given from around the world is simply amazing.
I read about someone who barely survived the Tsunami, only to be badly injured in the Bangkok Metro accident 2 weeks later (in which 200+ people sustained injuries).
Travel to Thailand during the Immediate Tsunami Aftermath
I personally toured many areas in southern Thailand in the weeks after the Tsunami including the Phuket Beaches area, Krabi, Ao Nang, Railey Beach, and Khao Lak. With the brutal exception of Khao Lak (98% of the beachfront and vicinity was completely wiped off the map) almost ALL the tourist infrastructure was very well intact in the other areas. Its sad because the tourist facilities were almost empty and the businesses were really hurting as a result. Note: even Khao Lak has been built up again and it was only a matter of a year or two before it has become a tourist magnet once again. There was absolutely no good reason to stay away from Thailand in the weeks after the Tsunami. The beautiful beaches were empty and good deals could be found at hotels and restaurants.
Many of the main tourist areas that were actually affected by the Tsunami were only affected in the proximity of the beach – so if you walked a few blocks inland there was absolutely no sign of Tsunami damage. The exception to this was the Khao Lak area in which the Tsunami moved inland upwards of 1.5 kilometer+ which when you think about it, is an incredible distance.
Review the following Tsunami related photographs. Photographs of the dead and other disturbing images have not been posted here. All photos below were taken by Dave. Update: December 2006 most recent photos in PDF update/photo form available here.
Ao Nang/Railey Beaches
These are some of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand – and with the the “scare” after the Tsunami, these beaches were empty. Some damage was evident in these areas, but not nearly the amount saw at Patong Beach near Phuket. There is simply less infrastructure here and the height of the wave when it hit was not as high as in some of the other areas.
Patong Beach Phuket Area
The areas near the ocean were quite damaged by the Tsunami. Patong Beach saw damage to the first several blocks near the ocean – and severe damage to the first block. However, merely 2.5 weeks after the Tsunami hotels in the first block had already partially opened. I stayed at one such resort and was one of just a handful of people there. Damage recovery in this part of Thailand was quick.
The lighted candles below were released into the dark night sky at the end of a very moving memorial celebration in Takuapa (32km north of Khao Lak), which I feel very fortunate to have been a part of. This took place in a huge futbol/American soccer stadium and was crowded with people dressed all in white. Prayers were conducted by many religions.
The town of Takuapa is where a lot of the relief operations were centered for the Khao Lak areas. Wat Yan Yao is where the majority of the bodies were kept and identified.
The best map I’ve found so far of the Khao Lak area, with hotels spotlighted on the map.
The military/police boat that you see below is going to become one of Thailand’s most famous landmarks. It was at sea guarding the King’s daughter and her family when the Tsunami hit. It was carried more than a kilometer inland where it now rests on land against the edge of the forest.
It was interesting to see what survived as I walked through the devastation at Khao Lak. While much of the non native vegetation was completely destroyed the vast majority of the Palm trees were standing. When you examine their massive root structure you can see why most survived. Surprisingly, I found a lot of intact light bulbs as well in the middle of all the devastation.
I swam to the two hotels located across a large bay from the mainland Khao Lak area (see photo below). It was eerie exploring these hotels as due to their location they really hadn’t been examined thoroughly after the Tsunami. There were many copies of passports and Thai identity cards strewn about as well as other misc items. It was strange walking to the top of a building that was totally askew and leaning in one direction.