Mr. Woolley and the waves

Experiences in the tsunami
by Jonathan Woolley

Posted on the net April, 2005, but only just discovered by

IA?a??a??ve been asked by several colleagues about my
familyA?a??a??s experiences in the recent tsunami.
Thank you all for your concern and enquiries.
ItA?a??a??s special to feel supported by, and to matter
to, a community and our CPWF community is
that for me.
We were on Christmas holiday at Duphalac syrup cost Arugam Bay Buy deltasone online
in Sri LankaA?a??a??s south east coast, a remote,
beautiful and simple resort, and one of the
islandA?a??a??s closest points to the earthquakeA?a??a??s
epicentre off Sumatra. Just before 9 a.m., my
wife Pilar and I were on a short pre-breakfast
walk along the beach and our daughter Olivia was about 800m away, about
to enter the sea in front of our small hotel. We had earlier sat together
commenting how perfect the morning was and how tranquil the sea. There
was no visible warningA?a??a??here the sea did not draw back at allA?a??a??we were
admiring it as it was so beautiful. The first hint we had was a wave (more
like a surge as it didnA?a??a??t break) that came too far, wetting us suddenly, but
not violently. Instinctively, we retreated.
About 15 seconds later, Pilar and I were caught in the middle of our backs
by a second surge, when near the top of the beach. The third surge washed
us through a simple open building. The fourth somehow swept us near a
palm tree that we wound ourselves around, holding on to it and to each
other. There we weathered what were apparently about four more surges
over what seemed like the space of about 10 minutes. We remember the
sea as cold, brown and full of debris. The sea washed over us as we held
onto our tree; we both remember thinking that we couldnA?a??a??t resist the tremendous
push and pull much further. In retrospect, we were very lucky to be
partly protected from the debris and the full force of the waves by the building
still standing near our tree. Then in a flash, the water level fell as though
a plug had been pulled from a bathtub. We had to resist being sucked away,
while wedged between our tree and a floating tree-trunk pressing against
us. We still somehow thought then that we had been involved in a freak local
tide. It was only when we saw the level of destruction and death near our
hotel that the extent of it dawned.
Meanwhile, Olivia was on a more exposed part of the bay, open to the full
force of the waves. By about the third surge, she climbed on top of a onestorey
structure; as it collapsed, she calculated a grab for the leaves of a palm
tree, from which she hung for a few seconds, until she was swept further
inland and grabbed hold of the trunk of another palm tree just below the leaves.
She has a photograph of the tree taken laterA?a??a??the leaves are about 8m above
the ground. Others in this area were swept a kilometre into the lagoon or out
to sea. When she couldnA?a??a??t hold on any longer, Olivia slipped into the water,
fortunately as the last surge of the first incident was draining. She made her
way back to our two-storey hotel building. It was still standing although one-storey
buildings of the same hotel had been utterly destroyed.
Our son, Alan, who had been asleep in a second floor room, was awakened by the
deep rumbling noise (near our palm tree I remember no noise at all) and got out of
bed in time to see the water pouring in. Seeing the destruction, he thought weA?a??a??d all
been lost. Fortunately, within half an hour of the first wave, we were reunited in one of
the few remaining buildings. There, we withstood six more sets of surges over the
next 3 hours. From the height of the hotel, we could just about detect new surges
coming. With each, along with 10 other people, we clutched pillars in the corridor,
surfboards and each other. The peak of each set of surges washed powerfully through
the open corridors, specially the last two that occurred close to each other around
12.30 pm and seemed the strongest. Through different estimates, we reckon that the
peak level of most of the sets of surges was about 10m above normal sea level,
which in that flat terrain was devastating, entering at least a kilometre inland.
One of AlanA?a??a??s first actions was finding a mobile phone that had luckily been on a
high bedroom shelf and was still dry. Once reunited, we used that to seek the help
of IWMI, who provided wonderful support and advice and contacted the British
High Commission in Colombo, which kept a register of all the foreign nationals in
our group. We were advised to retreat to higher ground once the waves abated.
That we did, spending the next 24 hours on a hilltop 10m above sea level and
almost a kilometre inland with some 150 others. The injured and foreigners were
evacuated by Sri Lankan Air Force helicopters to Ampara, a nearby district capital,
but it was a slow process only possible in daylight. Meanwhile, food and water was
dropped to us and a few with medical skills attended the wounded. We were stranded
as the bridge had collapsed leaving us in effect on an island.
In the community of Arugam Bay, some 250 people perished out of 2000, many of
them women and children, including the hotel owner and a number of guests.
We keep in touch with several members of our global A?a??A?hilltop survivors groupA?a??A?.
Having gone through a similar experience, we can provide mutual support and
there is less to explain. The group has raised funds to help in Arugam Bay and
Olivia has conducted a needs assessment and linked with local NGOs to distribute
our contribution. It sometimes seems complicated to know how and where to help.
Despite the availability of funds, there is still much confusion and disorientation.
My personal conclusion to all this, so far, is still contained in the comment by a wise
Sri Lankan doctor, who treated us on return to Colombo: A?a??A?You have passed in a few
minutes through an intensity of experience that some never have in a lifetime.A?a??A?


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