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December 26, 2004

Indian Ocean Tsunami

via the Blogging of the President: a friend of a friend of a friend writes:

The Blogging of the President: 2004: Dear All:

I am in India right now.

2 days ago, I was at the very tip of India, away out in the water visiting a temple, where you can admire the geographic glory of three bodies of water meeting and curving around the horn of India. Stunning. Millions of holiday travelers from all over India and the world. Impressive number of people. Then we were off for a lovely dinner at Kovalam beach.

Yesterday, I was in Alleppuzha on a houseboat for Christmas. We wandered around the backwaters of Kerala and marveled at how close people live to the water, as if it never ever floods there.

Today, we got off the boat at about 10 am and got on a bus to Cochin at about 10:20. By the time we got to Cochin, 2 hours later, we began to get the inkling that something was very wrong.

The water in Cochin harbor was unbelievably strange and frothy, the beaches were unusually narrow and wet, and none of the fishing boats had returned. People were everywhere, lined up waiting for their loved ones and watching the strange surf. We heard then the news about the earthquake and tsunami. We heard that Alleppuzha and the backwaters are flooded. Kovalam is hard hit. Then we heard that the temple we had been on, just two days ago, is gone, along with all its many holiday travelers who come to marvel at the geography of India.

It is a strange and sad day. We--along with what seemed to be most of Cochin--spent most of it marveling at the force of the water and cheering when the coast guard started going out in full force and cheering even louder when the fishing boats finally started coming home in the evening.

Even here, all around the horn of India far from the line of force from the earthquake, the water was able to turn back the very strong river that flows out to meet the sea. There finally came the moment when a cry was raised and we saw it, a dark line way off on the horizon, and as it came closer you could see a wall of water. Sure, wall of water, but it was only about a metre high, we thought. No problem. So no-one moved from where we were watching (about 15 metres up on a rocky outcrop, gotta be safe, right?) and there were people and touts offering their wares on the beach. But when it hit the beaches were completely underwater, all of the people on the beach had to run away fast, we on the rocky outcrop got soaked, the touts--carts were swept away, and the children were in hysterics. No-one was hurt, but we all treated the wall after wall after wall of water that came, all afternoon and evening, and even now continues as I write, with a great deal more respect.

And if it could be this strange and threatening in Cochin, imagine the east coast and Sri Lanka.

I hope that all of your friends and family are safe and that the powers that be offer speedy aid to this part of the world.

Best,
Erika

Posted by DeLong at December 26, 2004 09:52 AM