Dive Aid

Khao Lak Tragedy

Last Updated: 4-Jan-2005, Michael - Big Blue Diving Thailand

It was an exhausting week. Me and Tik was having coffee in our resort when it all happened. Our place is the only resort left intact leaving 68 rooms out of what I've been told used to be over 5,000 in Khao Lak (was it that many?). It was the weirdest sound and just got stronger and stronger. Sounded like a forest fire in full swing. We ran down towards the edge of the resort just to see water and people being flushed in from the beach. We both ran for the car and drove down picking up injured. First batch was sent to the health station in some small village called "maprao" something. I also took the opportunity to call home and Tik called the boss of immigration in Bangkok telling him about the disaster. He didn't have a clue but called the navy informing them about the devastation in Khao Lak. They knew about Phuket but hadn't thought about Khao Lak yet. Upon driving back to Khao Lak I was told by a friend in Bangkok that a second wave was coming. He got the news from Phuket.

Not sure exactly when but we drove by Joakims shop to see how he was doing and also tried to reach some hotels on NangThong beach. Joakim was in the shop that was a bit damaged but he was OK, trying to pack up BCDs, Regs etc and then driving off on a motorbike. He also told me his family was OK.

We picked up some more people and took them up to the mountain. Plenty of people up there already.

Quite a few cars were parked up there. Many people seriously injured. No car owners willing to drive the injured to hospitals afraid of the second wave.

After heated discussions we brought injured in my car and we also nicked 2 more pick up trucks (one from SeeBeez, thanks!) and filled them up with injured. We took them to hospital in Thai Muang.

First trip from the mountain we had 3 pax in the car. Martin - an 11 year old Swede with a broken leg missing mom and dad.

Werner - an elderly German with injuries all over the place and missing his wife.

Peter - a Swedish man with severe injuries and missing his wife and twin daughters.

I called my sister in Sweden asking her to inform the ministry of foreign affairs giving the names as well.

We did a few more runs and then started to take people to the viewpoint where Keith, Fred etc. was.

Early evening we picked up Pavel, a 16 year old boy from the Czech Republic. We'd tried to pick him up earlier when he was wandering aimlessly barefoot through the streets of Khao lak but he refused to talk and we didn't have time. Had to bring people to hospital. Pavel had been out fishing when the wave hit. He was looking for his parents and brother. They were staying in Wannaburi Resort. He had gone straight back there but couldn't find his family. Just "lots of dead people". We took him to the temple in Lamken but no luck there. We went to Thai Muang hospital and no luck.

This gave us a chance to visit the people we'd sent there earlier. Martin was doing OK and had already had an operation to his leg. A German man called Mackie offered me to take Martin to his place where many other wounded were staying. Should be better than being in a hospital I thought and Martin agreed. A day later he had an infection and Mackie brought him back to the hospital. Miraculously he bumped into his mom there ?.

Werner the German was also doing well and praised the hospital staff and the good food they had been given. He was in good spirits and asked me to leave a message to Nom restaurant in Khao Lak to say he was OK.

Trying to get back into Khao Lak in the evening proved impossible. The police wouldn’t have any of it so we got in again in the morning of the 27 Dec. We left the message to Noms restaurant for Werner but no people there.

During the next 4 days we kept visiting hospitals, temples, bungalow resorts, city halls and other relief workers compairing data on lists, putting up pictures of missing people. looking at hundreds of corpses trying to identify people we never seen before. Just having pictures of some and descriptions on clothes they may have worn as well as jewellery.

It was gruesome spending so much time in this devastated area filled with dead bodies, the stench lying thick in many areas we had to visit and the bodies decomposing very fast. We got visitors from Sweden that we’ve never met but they somehow got hold on my mobile number. Having high hopes when arriving, you could see their grief when taking them to the resorts their loved ones had been staying.

On the 29th we sent Pavel to Phuket airport. This time, he flew alone, his family still missing. A friend of the family had arrived to Bkk and as I write this, Pavel is staying with that family in Hua Hin where they are vacationing.

On the 30 in the evening we decided it was time to go. I dropped by Noms restaurant making sure Werners message got through. The owner told me “Werner is dead”. I couldn’t believe it. He showed me pictures of Werner and I could verify it was the right person. I go the number for Werners brother in Germany and checked with him. He confirmed that Werner died in a Phuket hospital from blood poisoning. It really brought our spirits down. Such a tragedy and so few rays of sunshine.

We passed by Hua Hin on the way to Bkk and visited Pavel. No news from his family yet. We’ll meet him again before he goes home and will certainly keep contact in the future. I hope he will be able to build up his life without his parents and brother.

I just called Sweden yesterday having a word with Martin and his mom. He’s still in hospital and still missing father and sister. I will attach pics of them to this mail in case someone has seen them. The mother is confident that at least the daughter is OK. Someone on the mountain she was staying on the first night told her that he had seen her daughter. I have also seen the daughters and fathers name on a list at the Phangnga City hall. However, I think that some lists are incorrect. When people were getting into the hospitals they wrote down their names and names of missing people on the same paper. I can imagine confusion with non English speaking Thai administrator inputting the data to the computer.

We also visited K in the hospital yesterday. He’s doing remarkably well considering the damage to his legs/feet. His father and sister is here now as well as his gf Sao. It is believed that he will have to spend another month in hospital. I’m attaching a small picture of him as well and he gives his best regards. Oh, he’s got a new mobile number: 66-7-080 6091.

As for Thailand and tourism business it goes without saying that Khao Lak is dead for now as well as Phi Phi. For Khao Lak I’m sure it will take at least 3 years before things are even remotely the same as before the wave. Phuket, Krabi will recover much faster. 90% of Phuket accommodation is intact, for example.

I hope people will still come to the west coast. Otherwise we’ll have a second disaster on our hands. Imagine all people that lost all they have including their jobs and relatives/family members. A vital part of rebuilding those parts of the countries are to keep the tourist flow coming.

Me and Tik will go down to Khao Lak in a couple of days to see what more we can do to help out and to connect with some friends that are still there. If you have any names, lists, pictures etc. you want me to take care of, please email to me a.s.a.p.

All the best,

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