Tsunami in South Asia

A subjective account of the events of December 26, 2004 that took place in Thailand

by Andreas Rydzewski

It is December 28th afternoon and I sit in the garden of the Paradise Beach Resort located on Koh Samui Island. Time and time again, I have to cry because of the fortune that Angela and I are alive, but also because the horrible images of death and chaos sadden me infinitely. I have been functioning and reacting meticulously in order to find the best solution for us for the past fifty hours. Now that we are in safe quarters and I am under good medical care, the weight is lifted from me and the events are played over and over in my mind. It began on the 26th of December with our waking up.

The day before, we had taken a short flight from Koh Samui, on the island of Phuket, and taken a taxi northbound to the mainland Khao Lak, in the province of Phang Nga. We had booked a beautiful room in the Merlin Hotel on a paradisiacal beach. On this morning we wanted to play a round of golf on the closely situated Tublamu Navy Golf Course. We had already eaten breakfast on the terrace of the hotel at 7:00 am; it was to be a warm windless day. At 8:00 am we were picked up by the golf club staff and there was a pleasant anticipation of a nice round of golf. The golf site was located on a military base and was run by marines, which is unimaginable according to German standards, but not so unusual in Thailand. This huge area was suitably surrounded by a two to three meter high wall, which would present itself as critical later. The golf course was situated directly along the beach, whose distinguishing lure I had noticed on arrival day as I had strolled along the hotelís beach. The check-in at the clubhouse went off without a hitch and we were able to store our backpacks with swimwear there because we still planned on wandering the kilometers of shoreline after our round of golf. We were assigned two young male caddies of about sixteen years of age. Usually, the caddies in Thailand are female, but being a military base, this was not the case. 

The golf course was flat with many ponds and a beautiful lay out. In order to avoid waiting, the caddies went with us directly to the third tee because there was a group of four golfers on the first hole. Our round would just have to end at the second hole instead of the usual eighteenth hole. This unusual yet fortunate decision turned out to be a crucial one for our lives.

At 8:20 am we both began our round with rather average performances. As expected, it grew increasingly hotter to the point that Angela converted her umbrella into a sun umbrella. Despite having his hands full, her caddy took turns holding the sun umbrella when Angela teed off. The game ran quickly without any waiting time until we caught up to a group playing on the ninth hole. Luckily, this group took a break at the so-called "Halfway House" after this hole, so we could play through to the end. The tenth hole ran along the sea with a glorious view of the calm turquoise-colored water and the white beach with its large coconut trees. The eleventh hole ran as an extension of the tenth hole and our game was getting better and better, which made me content with myself, as well as the world. The twelfth hole, a par five and 450 meters long, bent ninety degrees away from the sea inland to a magnificent view of the distant mountains. At the end of this hole, an intersection of three holes was a kiosk, in which we bought drinks and rested in the shade. Our caddies sat at the thirteenth tee ready for us with our golf bags. We were glancing at the flight following us, which was on the green of the twelfth hole, when, suddenly, a commotion arose among them and wild shouting could be heard from afar. Our caddies jumped up and raced towards us gesturing. We understood absolutely nothing at first, but then we heard a deep rumbling and the birds around us chirped madly. Then we saw it. At the beginning of the twelfth hole, 450 meters away from us, approached a dark gray barreling wave, a meter in height. I starred in disbelief in the direction of this incomprehensible wonder for several seconds. My first thoughts were of how the water would ruin the golf course and inhibit us from continuing our game. Very quickly, I realized the danger and I reached the highest warning level in my mind as the menacing wall moved itself closer to us. The kiosk attendant screamed loudly and drew the money out of her register. The caddies had reached us, calling out "run, run, run", and pointing out the route, diagonally away from the tidal wave. We raced off foolishly with drinks in hand, Angela with her beloved, yet closed, umbrella, and our overly zealous caddies with our golf bags in tow. The way led us to a half-empty lake about 150 meters away that had a diameter of about 100 meters. As I saw this half-empty lake between us and the impending wave, I felt a sort of calmness. We had already surpassed several less athletic golfers from the neighboring sixth and seventh holes and I thought we would soon reach the exit towards the street. Both sides of the route were strewn lightly with trees and palms, thin enough for us to always have a clear view of the oncoming sea wave. Then something occurred, which for me is incomprehensible. As the water from the wave poured itself into the half-empty lake, filling it within seconds, the wave seemed to literally take over the previously barren body of water. I screamed for Angela to run faster, but our strength was dwindling. Suddenly, golfers came running towards us calling out, "on the trees". The water was about 100 meters away from us and would soon cut off the route which we were following. That was the crucial moment we had to make the right decision. Either we sought refuge in a tree or we continued running away from the danger. The trees were perhaps five to seven meters tall, but relatively thin, with a diameter of about fifteen centimeters, and the palm trees without branches were not climbable. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the people desperately try to make their way to the tops of the trees, but the thin branches gave way partially under the load.

The despair grew within me and I decided to continue running as far as we could somehow get. I yelled for Angela to run away from the danger, through the bushes, and that she should finally let go of the umbrella. The shrubs belted our faces, the barreling wave was ear splittingly loud, and the cracking of the trees behind us summoned up inexplicable forces to continue. Approximately thirty meters later, we came upon a wall of 1.80 meters in height. I can estimate the height quite accurately because I only had to raise myself slightly to see over it. Behind this wall was a courtyard with a wooden hut. Angela was approximately ten meters behind me. I pulled myself onto the wall and knelt down, ready, as Angela reached the barricade. The wave was about twenty to thirty meters behind us with its height still reaching one to two meters high. I reached my hand to Angela and pulled her up with all my strength. Her shouts of "I canít make it, I canít make it!" outraged me and the thought that she could give up left me in sheer despair. Somehow she reached the top of the wall and we jumped down to the other side. For a moment or two I felt relieved until I heard the dreadful cracking behind us. The wall collapsed on itself and the wave broke through. Now it was about pure survival. Approximately thirty meters ahead of us was an additional wall, higher and crowned with three rows of barbed wire. We ran towards it directly to the sand heap that made the inherently insurmountable obstacle attainable by reducing the distance from the top. This time, I lifted Angela first with strength only possible when facing death. With the last of my force, I somehow managed to get onto the capstone, but then my fine motor abilities failed me and I fell into the barbwire, tearing up my arm and abdomen. On the other side, the ground was about 2.50 meters below us and Angela just screamed, "I canít jump" and I shouted at her to "jump, jump, jump". And she jumpedÖ The barbwire dug itself deep into my skin, but I was able to free myself and land in the trench on the other side of the wall. Before us stood a street, it was the access drive to the military base. We had climbed the outer wall of the base and found ourselves now, as we reconstructed the next day, nearly two kilometers from the sea. Now the water came along the right of the street. It must have had paved its own way through the exit of the base or already overtaken the outer wall in a different spot. We continued running to the left in the direction of the drive along the coast, as a moped rider, apparently oblivious to everything, came towards us. Now, everything occurred very quickly. The moped rider braked and perceived the jeopardy. We both jumped on the moped, he turned, and we drove off ahead of the wave, fast enough to avoid any further danger. After roughly two kilometers, we reached the busiest main street dense with many small shops and restaurants. It was our first time in safety, for the location we had come upon lay undoubtedly ten meters higher in level. 

As we saw this street, on which we had ridden a Moped on the day before, our blood almost froze within our veins. The wave had leveled kilometers of the wall and hurled dozens of cars that had been on the street almost 100 meters to the bordering forest. We saw completely wrecked automobiles two meters high within the trees. No one came out of these cars alive.

As the moped driver dropped us off on the main street, it was obvious I urgently needed a doctor because the barb wire had made some nasty tears and I had bled substantially. Meanwhile, a considerably large group gathered around us and all spoke simultaneously and endlessly. Because the sight of me was quite self-explanatory, our inquiry for a doctor was quickly understood. Another moped driver urged us to climb on and the three of us rushed off. No one had taken notice of the tidal wave there yet.

The helpful moped driver apparently did not know where to find medicinal help because he drove back and forth insecurely. After five minutes, he stopped next to a shared taxi, a pickup with two rows of seating on its open bed, and spoke to its driver. It became apparent what was going on and it was made clear that we were to get on the truck. The drive lasted about two minutes until he came to a stop at a kind of "First Aid Station". There we found a kiosk with several common medications and some bandaging material. In this kiosk stood an old scruffy cot covered in blue plastic. In my simplicity, I thought that I would be able to receive adequate treatment and the necessary injections, which I urgently needed against blood poisoning, Tetanus, as well as other vicious infections because my last Tetanus shot had been about twelve years before. 

Angela spoke to the kind woman at the First Aid Post and attempted to explain what had happened. More and more curious Thais looked into this small room, but, unfortunately, no one understood a word of English. I laid myself down on this cot and the woman began to disinfect my wounds with cotton wool and tincture of iodine while Angela tried to call the hotel on our "nurseís" cellular to try to explain in English that I most certainly needed an injection, owing to the rusted fencing. The idea was that when the connection went through, we would have the receptionist share our problem with the woman in Thai. Of course, the connection did not go through. We quickly became aware that, in this post, neither antibiotics nor corresponding shots would be available. Now the taxi driver was looking after me, because he was worried and discussed with the others. After the wounds were disinfected, we all came to the conclusion that the only place we could find what we needed was a hospital.

I was once more transferred to the bed of the small truck and it was made clear to us that we were going to be taken to a hospital in the next town called Thai Muang. Angela paid yet three Euros for the treatment I had received. The incredible friendliness of the Thais is as developed as the sense of business they possess, so the truck was loaded with two more passengers and then we headed off. During the twenty minute ride, I realized for the first time that we had just barely survived and that those golfers behind us had slim chances of surviving. We paid an exorbitant amount to the taxi driver and then got off at the hospital.

Imagine the hospital as such: a one level building, with the front and back open, and a 20x20 meter large room. As we entered this building, our breath was taken away. Everywhere were crying, screaming, and blood covered people standing, sitting, or lying down with gaping wounds. Some stood in shock with their pale white complexions and expressionless stares, while others wailed about family members. There were about fifty injured victims which one nurse was caring for in complete chaos with no recognizable sign of organization. Several minutes passed until the nurse came to address us and for me to show my wounds. She gave us a bottle of iodine and told us that we were to help ourselves to it. Our inquiry for a doctor was answered in broken English, saying, there was no doctor present, but that we could count on one coming soon. Every thirty seconds, cars and trucks drove up, dropping off more and more severely injured people. There were no ambulances, only privately owned vehicles. Among the injured dropped off, were many dead who had been covered with cloth. There was a German man next to us that cried in despair as he held his lifeless wife in his arms. Then came a truck with more injured and two small dead children. Within a half hour, the courtyard and front garden were filled with more than 200 injured and dead, yet, there was no doctor to be heard of. 

It was apparent that we could not expect to be helped; especially comparing my injuries to those which we saw here, who needed to receive treatment more urgently than I. Information was exchanged among all those who were lightly injured and we slowly began to see the extent of the catastrophe. People told of the unbelievable stories of how they had survived the inferno. Many told us that before the tidal wave, the water receded several hundred meters, leaving fish wriggling on the dry land. After a few minutes, a ten meter high tidal wave struck the beach at a raging speed. Children had attempted to bring those stranded fish back to the distant water. Others told of how the wave had hurled them hundreds of meters and had drowned them for minutes at a time. One must imagine the amount of enormous trees, debris, and boulders which were carried by the wave, resulting in these horrifying injuries.

After an hour, we decided to leave this place because we could not expect help there and the sight of the people being delivered was becoming unbearable. Mothers cried for their vanished children and children cried for their parents. Doctors were still nowhere to be found, but many uninjured Thais from the surrounding areas helped and tried to perform first aid. The stream of arriving injured continued, predominated by foreigners. We stood on the street and thought over whether we should try to catch a taxi to Phuket, where we would surely find larger and more efficient hospitals. In this moment, a Thai, who has just dropped off some of the wounded, stopped next to us and asked us whether he could help us. We asked him whether he would be able to bring us to a hospital in Phuket and he replied in broken English that he had just heard on the radio that the situation was just as bad there and that it would make no sense to go there. We quickly brainstormed and decided to drive to our hotel. The Thai, whose name was Somporn, told us that our hotel was in the path of the tsunami and most likely was destroyed. He offered to drive us to his small hotel resort; there we would be safe, because it was positioned on the mountain above the ocean. 

Without a momentís hesitation, we rode along and were relieved and content about the helpfulness. We drove again along the coastal street, which ran parallel to the ocean for four and a half kilometers. As we returned northward, we saw the amount of the destruction. Whenever the street was within one kilometer of the ocean and not higher in elevation, our way was obstructed by trees, shrubs, debris, and car remains. The street to the hotel ran about six hundred meters from the ocean and the entrance was buried underneath a meter high layer of mud, cutting off our access to the hotel. A female corpse lay in the middle of the street. The wave must have had an incredible impact in this area, because there were vehicles that had been hurled nearly one hundred meters from the street. I could see the entrance to our hotel on the side of the hill through the small number of remaining trees. Because the entrance seemed to be intact, we were quite sure that our hotel room would still exist because it was situated a little higher. Getting there by foot would be impossible because the stretch between the coastal street and the hotel was covered by a meter high layer of house debris, fallen trees, and mud. Next to our hotel was a bungalow structure with a restaurant on the beach that we had eaten at the day before. There was no trace of this structure left!

We drove yet another three kilometers northbound and reached the grounds of the grounds of the Khao Lak Nature Resort, which were fifty meters above sea level. Our driver, who was the owner of this simple, yet beautiful facility, told us that he wanted to bring me to a larger hospital approximately forty kilometers inland because it would be easier to get medical treatment there. Due to the fact that the positioning of the Nature Resort guaranteed security, many of the wounded had taken shelter there. The vehicle was packed with more wounded and we were on our way. Angela, who was the least injured of all the passengers with only light lesions and scrapes on her legs, had to sit in the luggage compartment of the station wagon. We arrived at the Phan Nga hospital forty minutes later and had to get out at the access drive because the entrance was blocked by vehicles with other victims. It seemed better organized here because even before entering the hospital, every patient was equipped with a tag around their wrist. Nurses wrote a series of numbers on each tag and a box was crossed off as to whether someone was dead, severely injured, moderately injured, or capable of walking. One had to write their own name and nationality down. These tags were most likely planned with a catastrophe in mind and made it at least possible to record all the incoming cases. 

Our driver left once more to transport more wounded and we arranged with him to be back at 3:30 p.m. In this hospital, there was an enormous treatment hall, in which at least fifty people were treated at once and, because the doors were wide open, one could see and hear everything happening within. Many of us had a long wait ahead of us, so we conversed and learned of many traumatic fates. Someone had the idea to start a list of all the foreigners sorted by countries in order to later pass on respective messages. After initial optimism of being treated here, hope quickly dwindled because more severely injured victims were brought by the minute and, naturally, had priority to treatment. The number of people to be treated ahead of us quickly increased. Angela tried to find a pharmacy within the surrounding area to possibly buy shots and corresponding medicine. This attempt was unsuccessful because these supplies would only be available at the hospital. A helpful Thai drove Angela to a pharmacy and, as Angela is an inexperienced moped rider, she burnt her calf on the exhaust pipe, leaving her with a burn blister.

Our driver Somporn was back before we had planned and helped right away with the nursing of the injured. Many of the victims who were delivered were in a state of shock and their bodies were covered with cuts. After analysis of the situation, it was clear to us that we could not expect help here within the next twenty-four hours. We decided to drive back with Somporn to the hotel and attempt to inform home that we were alive and doing well so far. My cellular was in the safe at the Merlin Hotel, so Somporn offered his cell phone and after several tries, we reached my mother. The connection was continuously interrupted, but we were able to ask that she call Angelaís family without fail. 

Somporn, who could only have been sent to us from heaven, bought us something to eat on the way and we loaded his car up with provisions and candles because the electricity and water supply were not functioning on the coast. We made a detour to the first hospital in Thai Muang to bring along some of those injured back to his hotel. Outside of the hospital lay hundreds of injured people and off to the side, we saw dozens of corpses laid out to be identified. We do not know how, but Somporn managed to obtain a large box filled with iodine and bandaging from the hospital, which would come in handy later. We drove in three back to the Nature Resort and, on the way, Somporn covered yet another body on the edge of the street with a blanket. We arrived at the hotel approximately 4:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, more and more tourists had taken refuge at the hotel and Sompornís wife and son had cooked omelets, chicken, and rice for all on a gas cooker. After my wounds were treated with iodine and bandaged, we ate and exchanged information. In such a situation, information is important in order to make decisions, although it is sometimes difficult to establish what the truth and what the rumors are. For example, we were told that the bridge to Phuket Island and the airport was destroyed, but that later proved to be false. After we recuperated a bit, we really wanted to head to our hotel because all of our possessions were there. We knew that our passports, money, credit cards, and cellular phone would be particularly essential to our departure. Because we had no chance at reaching our hotel by foot, we asked our host for his help once more. Without any hesitation, he drove us right away. He knew a particular elevated path which led from the coastal street, over a hill, and to the hotel site, so that we would not encounter any flooded areas. As I had already suspected, the upper part of the hotel was unaffected and we entered the abandoned premises. We saw blood and trails of hectic attempts to escape everywhere. Only the hotel owner and two other helpers were to be seen. These disheartened workers had a small truck loaded with supplies. He told us that the hotel bungalows in the vicinity of the beach were completely destroyed and lives of hotel guests were lost. All guests had been evacuated and were now relocated in the hotel employee houses at a higher elevation. He allowed us to quickly enter our room and acquire the most necessary of items. Our relief was indescribable as we found our room unscathed and were able to retrieve documents and money out of our room safe. We managed to pack a couple of items of clothing and left the hotel.

More and more of the "stranded" turned up at the Nature Resort, those who had lost everything, because the tsunami had left nothing of many houses. We occupied an empty hut and sat in the darkness by the candlelight with a Swiss couple and ate cookies we had somehow gotten a hold of. Unfortunately, my wounds did not stop bleeding and my bandages had been bled through. With my hut neighbor, I searched the center of the grounds, on which many people had prepared sleeping accommodations on the floor of the restaurant. As we were changing my bandages by the candlelight, we received unexpected help from a German nurse, who bound the bandages considerably more professionally. Once more, my guardian angel became evident, because this nurse had one last box of antibiotics, which she left to me without hesitation. This would be the very first protection from infection I would receive and thus, my tension decreased somewhat. 

We had luck that we had a hut to ourselves and tried to rest in the night. Sleep was unthinkable with all the gruesome images of that day burnt into our minds. That left us restless, so I tried to plan the next day. It was obvious that we had to leave as soon as possible because the supply of water and provisions could become scarce and a doctor was difficult to come by. In addition, the danger of an epidemic would increase because the recovery of the dead had not even been organized yet. Because the mobile phone network was not functioning, we would only be able to clear up our situation in person.

We got up with the first light of the morning and Angela checked the state of the entrance of the hotel. She came back and reported that there was a delivery truck there that would be driving to the airport in Phuket; the bridge was once more traversable. We decided immediately to ride along in order to see what we could do at the airport. We arrived and we were, at first, taken aback because the airport lobby was filled to the brim and crowds were lined in front of the ticket counters. At one counter, we found out that all flights to Bangkok were full and the expected extra flights were reserved for those who had lost everything and/or were severely injured. Because we had found an outstanding infrastructure in Samui the first week of our vacation and could recall a hospital that appeared orderly, we decided to book a flight to Samui. Unfortunately, this attempt failed because these airplanes were needed for the extra flights to Bangkok and the two remaining flights were booked with waiting lists for the next two days. Our next idea was to rent a car and drive ourselves the thousand kilometers to Bangkok. The rental stations were approximately five hundred meters away from the airport and we made our way there. Budget and National had no more vehicles available and Hertz rented cars for Phuket only, without the possibility of returning it in a different location. However, a two seated Jeep with a carrying surface was available and there was the possibility of returning it outside of Phuket. At first, we refused to consider driving over one thousand kilometers with such an unreasonable vehicle. We were thinking over what we should do, when we found ourselves in front of a large map of Thailand that was hung in one of the car rental stations. I had told Angela before that the city of Surat Thani on the east coast would not be too far and there we would surely find a decent and organized infrastructure. In addition, I had read that, from there, one could drive to Samui. Because the earthquake had broken out in the Indian Ocean and affected the west coast of Thailand, we were sure that the east coast would not show signs of destruction from the catastrophe. We calculated it to be about two hundred and fifty kilometers to Surat Thani and that we could manage this trek with the Jeep in that same day. The decision was made. Hertz required that one way rentals had a duration period of at least one week. We quickly came to an understanding and could, thank God, show a passport, international driverís license, and credit card. Without these documents, we would not have had the vehicle handed over to us.

The Jeep drove better than I had expected and I quickly got used to driving on the right side and shifting on the left-hand side. We continued out trip back to Khao Lak a few kilometers behind the airport to the Hotel Marriot because this section was apparently not affected as heavily by the tsunami. We stopped there for breakfast at eleven oíclock. Surprisingly, the hotel was functioning almost normally. We saw some destruction in the vicinity of the beach, but the main building was completely unaffected and spared from the water. We ate breakfast and discussed the next step. It was shocking that the luxurious life continued here as though nothing had happened and only a few kilometers away were chaos and death. We drove an hour northbound to first find the place of our escape. I still had small hope that a part of the clubhouse would still be standing, in which we could find our backpacks with my prescription sunglasses that we had stored there. Moreover, I wanted to see if there was any chance of getting our golf clubs back. As we turned onto the access road into the golf course, we found the spot that we had escaped by climbing over the second wall. The floods had not only leveled the wall, but had also reached two hundred meters inland, destroying everything in its path. Had we not been able to climb over the second wall, we would have been killed seconds later by the rushing water, trees, and debris. We reached the main entrance to the base one hundred fifty meters further, which was being guarded by the military. We described our situation and said that we wanted to quickly see whether our backpacks were still somewhere. We showed them our key to the rented locker, but we were told that everything had been destroyed. The clubhouse was no longer standing and by no means could we enter the base. We drove further and saw from afar that nothing from the golf course was recognizable and that the recovery of bodies had begun, which made it understandable that no one was allowed on the property. We drove further to our original hotel by using a recognizable stone path. The Jeep came in handy at this point because a normal car would not have been able to make it through this trail. As we stopped in front of the hotel, the situation was even more nightmarish than the day before because absolutely no one was to be found.

We hurried to pack our suitcases as quickly as we could and we returned to the hotel lobby. There was a woman from hotel personnel that was astounded to find us there because the official entrance to the hotel had been blocked and the recovery of the dead had already begun between the coastal street and hotel. It was quite odd that we had yet to pay for a beer from the day we arrived, but as they say, "life goes on".

Our next stop was our shelter from the day before, the Nature Resort. Angela packed our things from our hut and I studied the map, in the meantime, to gather information on the ferry to Samui. The last ferry would leave at six oíclock p.m., which meant we had about four and a half hours, which was sufficient time. We wanted to at least pay for the overnight stay, but our "angel" strictly refused to accept it. The helpfulness of this family was impressive and was an important and beautiful experience for us. 

We drove our Jeep towards the east coast and crossed a paradisiacal mountain landscape. On the way, we encountered trucks over and over that were loaded with heavy rescue equipment. The trip ran smoothly and we arrived forty minutes before the last ferry left the port, bought tickets, and moved onto Samui with an uneasy feeling. Because our cellular finally worked, Angela managed to find a nice hotel room after seven or eight phone calls. We thought that a stay on the beach would be the best therapy after our traumatic experience. During the remainder of this seventy five minute trip, we called our families and saw, for the first time, the destruction the earthquake had caused in South Asia on the television. When one sees the images of Indonesia and Sri Lanka, Thailand seems to have come out of the situation a little "better".

We arrived around eight oíclock at night at the hotel and were pleased to get a room as far as possible from the beach and on the second floor. After an extended shower and a Thai meal in the garden of the hotel, we fell asleep from exhaustion. The next morning, we drove to the Bangkok Samui Hospital and we were treated very attentively and professionally. My wounds were cleaned, disinfected, and bandaged. Exactly forty-eight hours after I had been injured, I finally received two injections against blood poisoning and Tetanus. Now the last of my tension had been relieved and we could begin to put our lives back in order. We see the 26th of December of 2004 as our second birthday. I am positive that after this experience, my attitude towards life has changed and future problems will be seen in a different light.

The Phang Nga province, in which we were, was most heavily affected. 3,950 dead were found as of December 31st. Of those, 2,210 were foreign tourists. The complete process of identification will last for months. Furthermore, 958 people are still missing in this province. Over 80% of the nativesí homes were destroyed by the tidal wave, as well as hotels.


I had planned to write down our experiences and how I had felt in order to come to terms with and reconstruct the happenings and to understand why I had handled myself as I did. After I had given Angela the text to read, she urged me to share what we had experienced and my feelings with those near us.

In view of the indescribable dimensions of this natural catastrophe, which brought such great suffering to millions, we are thankful to God and fate that we passed through this catastrophe relatively unscathed. The physical wounds will quickly heal, but the emotional effects will take longer to work through.