Journal: News & Comment

Monday, February 07, 2005
# 7:21:00 AM:

First-hand tsunami report

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As I sat here in my comfortable kitchen in December and early January, writing about the physics of tsunamis, I had no idea that someone I knew had actually been in the waves. But I heard his story last night.

Mark plays guitar, and sometimes keyboard and bass, in my band. On December 26, he was in Malaysia with one of his other bands, an Abba tribute act, and was on the beach. As he described it, he and the people with him noticed the crest of a wave stretching from horizon to horizon, and thought, "Hey, that looks neat. Let's see what happens when it comes in."

He noticed no drawdown, which means that where he was, the crest of one of the waves hit first. The initial wave in the series reached his feet. The next, a few seconds later, the tops of his legs. The third was chest high, and already dirty and full of debris. When it retreated, it pulled another tourist standing next to Mark under the water. Mark helped the man up and they headed inland. In the process, he was bumped by a floating gazebo.

And that was it. He found a nearby hotel, wrung the water from his clothes, and went to have a drink. He didn't hear till later that people had died even on nearby beaches—but because Malaysia was shielded by the island of Sumatra to the west, everyone in the area had been spared the true brunt of the waves.

Mark was uninjured, and has been back in Vancouver for several weeks now.


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