The Indian Ocean, bordered by Asia, Africa and Australia. in December 2004, millions are enjoying the holiday season along its shores including Steve Gill, his wife Heather and step-daughter Charlotte. They are on vacation in Thailand. “We had arranged to go out for a traditional Christmas meal. Everything was new and warm and fairly unspoiled undeveloped, very very quiet delic intimacy.” Steve described. In the Indonesian town of Banda Aceh, local resident Eddie Quenzlo is visiting friends and family. “I went to town to sleep in my friend’s house. It is close between my sister’s house and my friend’s house.” Eddie testified.
“At about 8 a.m. local time on December 26, 2004, everything changed. Just offshore in here, with the indo-australian plate subducts beneath the Eurasian Plate, more than a thousand years of tectonic stress released in a matter of seconds.” one reporter said. The earthquake has a magnitude 9.1. The third largest ever recorded. As the Eurasian Plate crust upwards by 20 meters, it displaces billions of tons of water. “The resulting wave traveled east towards Thailand and Indonesia and westward Indian Sri Lanka.
And in tsunami’s path, where millions of people.” the reporter added. Peaking at 800 kilometers an hour, the tsunami will take 30 minutes to hit the Sumatran coast. Around an hour later, it reach Thailand. Although they felt the earthquake with no tsunami warning systems in place, people around the Indian Ocean coastline oblivious to the approaching threat. “I saw a buildings destroyed, and we are scared of course. But we didn’t know it was a tsunami that’s happened.” Eddie Quenzlo added.
For the holiday makers in Thailand, the first hint at the impending disaster is a strange sight to the ocean disappearing. “The bay was empty. All I could see was rocks. All the way over to the octave, all the way over to the other on. There’s nothing there.” Steve added. “One of the more enduring and dramatic images at the 2004 tsunami, was the withdrawal of the water level from the shoreline leaving the entire foreshore area exposed. This is a phenomenon known as drawdown and it’s caused by the tectonic displacements offshore.
Well, one section at the plate is thrust upwards, the section on the plate closer to the coastline actually subsides, and the water rushing in to fill that void is what causes the withdrawal of the shoreline. Had more people realize that this was the sign of an impending tsunami perhaps more lives would have been saved.” the reporter’s explained.
This is the time people should have started running, but instead the curious sight viewers people go onto the beach. “It was bizarre, but it was fascinating. I think I did actually briefly go to the front house again and look and think about you know, walking out of coast. Just not right, just it’s wrong. Exactly how it wrong I don’t know but it’s wrong.” Steve continue. By the time many react, it’s too late. “Self, my wife, my stepdaughter discussed on next move and one mistake wedidn’t get to make basically.” Steve added. At 8:15 a.m. the tsunami hits northern Sumatra, the city of Banda Ache, home to over a quarter of a million people is about to suffer its full force. “I’m here in the busy city center of Banda Ache, and it was here on this street corner were some of the most graphic video footage of the tsunami was recorded.
On the street behind me, the tsunami surge came flowing up the road channel between the buildings. Watching the footage, we see that the leading edge in the tsunami was actually slow enough that people could escape simply by running or walking. However this part of Banda Ache is very far from the ocean and people simply didn’t know what to do. As the flood depth increases, so too does the speed the flow until there’s no way to escape unless you can get the high ground. That’s what the person who shot this video did. He climbed up over here, and he lived however thousands of other people that day could not get the high ground and they ended up dying in the waves.” Reporter added.
Cramb, billions of tons of debris the waves and unstoppable battering ram. Eddie Quenzlo is one of the many that scramble to safety near the Grand Mosque. “Materials come like the iron, the stone, the rocks, the bed, shirts, motorcycle, a car. You can see people mixed with the water everything’s material.” Eddie Quenzlo added. “The tsunami wave came right through here, these are very sturdy concrete buildings and many of them were knocked over by the tsunami but rather the water flowed through them between them in actually channelized the flow and made it speed up and get deeper in some areas.
The water here didn’t go past the the first story was all pretty much less about eight or 10 feet deep. So in terms of escaping, a lot of people could have got in the away just by getting up to the second story as the cameramen did at the corner.” reporter said. “I was thinking I will die and I so many people need help, but I could not help, because too many people need help. I so many babies, of course they need help, sometime I just take and put on the top because I don’t know where I have to bring them, how I can bring them, to where? Because all is a flood. I mean everywhere is water.” Eddie Quenzlo added.
30 minutes after the tsunami hits Banda Ache, it smashes into the Thai island of Phuket. Steve Gill’s beachside bungalow is directly in its path. “I think our conversation ended when we heard the roar of the water. We still couldn’t see the wave. On to a return to look at the small alleyway between the two buildings. It was traveling at speed estimated between two and three hundred miles an hour. I am just, it was seems a bit right above waters 30 foot high about 10 was nothing we could do nothing.
I remember being struck by the water realistically, there wasn’t any expectation I’ve ever come out the other side. It just you know, is this the way it ends. Because this sheer power of all waters that has hit you doesn’t allow any space for an escape plan. Million no plans for the future. I found in the stagnant a wreckage if you like, I’m about quarter mile up the road.” said Steve. Although he soon reunites with his stepdaughter, steve is never to see his wife alive again. Over the next 20 minutes, three massive waves up to 10 meters high crashing into the small resort. 1,000 tons of water smashing down each meter of coastline. Beach after beach, wave after wave, the tsunami brings death and destruction.
In Thailand, over 5,000 people perish with another 3,000 missing. In Indonesia, the tsunami obliterates Banda Ache. “I could not imagine why like this, I lose my bestfriend. I was thinking like, why God didn’t take me? Better He take me than my best friend. And also about my auntie also, we didn’t find these bodies. My cousin, many of my cousins passed away, we could not find the bodies.” Eddie added. In total, the waves strike 14 countries around the Indian Ocean. Taking lives as far away as Africa. The final death toll will make the 2004 tsunami the most lethal ever seen.