On Dec 22, indonesia was rocked by a surprise tsunami. Today, the number of dead is at least 429. This tsunami came a few days before the 14th “anniversary” of another deadly tsunami.
On Dec 26, 2004, the Asian Tsunami or the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit countries such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and even my country - Malaysia. In a matter of hours, 250,000 (Edit: It was more than 225,000 according to Wikipedia) people in 14 countries died.
It felt like salt being rubbed into a wound; after the Asian tsunami, warning systems were put into place. But these systems didn’t work because this tsunami was caused by an underwater landslide caused by a volcanic eruption.
Originally, this post (which is a repost of an old blog post) was to commemorate that tragic day. I never thought that I’d be writing about another tsunami robbing the lives of hundreds again.
My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
December 27, 2004
Natural disaster in Malaysia
The first thing my colleague asked me when I returned from my week-long break was: "Are your relatives in Penang okay?"
I was completely puzzled. For the past three days I lived in my apartment which had no telephone, Internet or newspaper access. My friend Kari and I spent most of our time reading and watching DVDs or going out shopping/movie-watching.
The only hint I had of the news of 53 dead in Penang and the biggest earthquake to strike southern Asia in 40 years was my dad's droll comment yesterday about tremors shaking KLCC.
He told me that an 8.5 richter scale earthquake had hit Sumatra, and that if it hadn't been for that big island absorbing a lot of the tremors, Malaysia would've been hit bad.
The Petronas Twin Towers was supposedly shaking yesterday because of it, but I was there and told my dad that we didn't feel a thing. We were blithely book browsing at Kinokuniya and later had some sushi. Earthquakes and tsunamis were far from our minds.
Penang, Dad said, felt the tremors. But Penang was always feeling one earthquake tremor or another, so I filed it under "interesting information" and proceeded to watch Kung Fu Hustle with Kari.
I only realised the magnitude of the event when Kari SMSed me. She had just left with her brother and they were about to drive back to Ipoh when he told her just how bad it was:
Whoa! Ten thousand people dead from the tsunami. At least six dead in Malaysia. Brother says Phuket is gone.*
Alarmed, I SMSed back:
What do you mean Phuket is gone?!
I kept thinking about the tourists, the people there. And the fact that I visited the area briefly. I can't imagine such an area being hit. Heck, I can't imagine Penang being hit. Penang, the state where I was born, is like the Hawaii of Malaysia; idyllic, filled with beaches etc. Disaster there? Unthinkable.
I'm watching CNN. Penang hit hard. Rumours are Penang bridge not safe. Bro says he heard tsunami as high as KLCC. At least 48 dead. Imagine all this happening during our holiday.*
It's hard to imagine, all right. While we were cheerfully eating a sake maki or a sake temaki, people are dying in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Maldives ...
* Note, my friend was listening to rumours and some are clearly unfounded. As my friend The Visitor pointed out, if the tidal waves were as high as KLCC (the tallest building in the world) Penang would've been obliterated. Also, Samy Vellu just said that Penang Bridge is not affected. And no, Phuket is not gone, but it is badly hit as well. Worse than Penang, unfortunately. :(
Tsunami: Malaysian blogosphere abuzz
3.32pm: Am browsing Petalingstreet.org a Malaysia blog aggregator. It's filled with blog posts about the tidal waves that hit Penang. I'll be highlighting some posts later today, but for now head down there if you'd like to read what Malaysians are saying about what happened in Penang.
So far: 53 dead in Malaysia.
Understanding the magnitude
5:49pm: The reason why most Malaysians are shocked about the tidal waves is because Malaysia is barely exposed to natural disasters. I remember studying geography and the only thing I remember from it is that Malaysia is protected from almost all natural disasters (except floods). We existed in this natural cacoon of safety and we have nothing to worry about.
The tidal waves taught us that even entrenched beliefs can be broken.