All safe in Koh Lanta

Trip Start Nov 16, 2004
Trip End Nov 15, 2005

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, December 27, 2004

Everyone is safe and well in Koh Lanta.

We woke on Boxing Day early for a boat tour of the island from a local fisherman. The five of us (minus Nial as he was suffering from Xmas celebration) and four friends from Denmark hired the boat and we set off at just after 9.30.

We went up the west coast of the island and went for a snorkel towards the north tip of the island, near the town centre of Koh Lanta. This was at about 10.30. We thought about stopping here to have some drinks but decided we would keep going around the island.

The current seemed to be very strong and the three fisherman that we were with advised us to sit on the seats of the long tail-boat (instead of the edge as we had been). We then became aware of a wave that didn't seem to be breaking in the far distance. At this point one the fisherman received a call on his mobile to advise that a fishing boat had been turned over and immediately signalled the driver to turn around. Wow. We couldn't really understand what was happening as it was another fine sunny day and no sign of any storm.

At this point is was about 11am and blissfully ignorant that a tsunami had been created from a very large (9.0 richter) earthquake under the ocean just off the Indonesean coast. While we were being motored to a safe place to stop, Merry Lanta Hut and the west coast of Koh Lanta was being lashed by a huge tidal wave.

We were told by a stranger that we should head for the mountains as many parts were about to be flooded. As he didn't speak much English we were unsure if this was an elaborate con or he was being over dramatic. As is turns out he was being serious and everyone was being advised to head for the safe high ground.

We still didn't have a clue what was going on. A friendly driver took all 9 of us to a restaurant on high ground and we were taken aback by the large number of people on the side of the road and in the restaurant. Not much longer had we sat down that we saw Nok (lady from Merry Hut) drive by. We managed to shout to get her attention and she was obviousily distraught. She drove us a short distance to a different place where we recognised the faces of other guests (and Nial!). It was only then that we had learnt that they had seen a large wave at first that ripped apart the bar and part of the restaurant. A larger second wave followed that they didn't stick around for. They obviousily didn't know where we were and had been worried as I imagine we would have been incredibly vulnerable had we remained on the west coast as we had been.

The afternoon was spent in the same place as we took in what was happening. We moved a little later to a semi built house in the mountains where we spent a very bizzare evening.

We came down to survey the damage and pick some things up when we were quickly shouted back onto the Jeep as reports of after shocks were reportedly hitting Phuket.

At about 2pm this afternoon we came back down to the resort. We are doing our best to help clean up. It is incredible how 5 minutes of waves can cause so much distruction. Our resort is not even as badly hit as some others, we have reports of 6 tourists being drowned in their bungalows further down the coast as they failed to wake in time. We have heard helicopters flying backwards and forwards all day taking people from the local island of Phi Phi. I have just had a quick look on bbc news and it seems we were very lucky considering the loss of live and damage done in surrounding areas and countries.

Will try to update more soon. In the meantime and we are all well, if a little shocked.

Take care.

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