Tsunami Warning Evacuation of the PSV

Dear Friends and Supporters of the PSV,

As you all noticed, there was a serious Tsunami warning a few days ago and also the PSV had to be evacuated for safety reasons.

Please see below a letter from our English teacher (who is running our English program within the village) which he wrote to his friends and family back in the UK afterwards.

This letter can give you an idea about what it means to be affected  by such a threat.  Thank you Peter for allowing us to share your words with our supporters.

Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2012 02:48:26 +0000

So, yesterday afternoon was the first time in my life that I have participated in an evacuation. The earthquake (8.9) off the coast of Banda Aceh, set all countries around the Indian Ocean in panic. I was teaching at 3.30 when one of the mothers came to announce the earthquake. The children had to pack a bag of spare clothes in case of evacuation. AT 4..15 the sirens went off, the back of our truck was loaded with bags and supplies while the children lined up to get into the 2 minibuses. Luckily, alot of the older children had gone home for Songkran, so our numbers were down to about 70.

The evacuation point in Koh Sireh is a local temple not far from the foundation, which is situated high on a hill. I bought a packet of cigarettes before leaving and carrying my laptop, followed the first truck on my motorbike. Were these the only possessions I would hang on to?

At 3.30. the children we warned to prepare a bag of spare clothes to take with them and at 4.15 they all lined up in the front courtyard to be moved to a local temple situated on a hill nearby. There was a general sense of emergency and some of the house mothers looked quite stressed. Bags, tins of biscuits, mats to sit on or eventually sleep on, water and food were piled into the back of a truck by some of the older children and all the others piled into our minibuses and by 4.50 the home was evacuated.

There were already evacuees in the compound of the temple when we arrived. Very quickly our children were organised into a corner on their mats. I could not resist looking down the driveway leading to the temple at the road beneath, wondering if we would see sea water surging along the road. It was busy, cars trucks and motorbikes racing back and forth seemingly dangerously pointlessly to me.

By 5.30, more and more people were arriving, many very poor sea gypsies from the coast nearby. Groups of tourists were also arriving often with only their swimming costumes and a towel. Many had been by speedboat to Koh Phi Phi and as they were arriving back their crews had received warning of the tsunami and had immediately made an about-turn to situate the boats out at sea where they would better negotiate the arriving wave without being destroyed. Finally, they decided they had enough time to put the tourists on land before going back out to sea. For the tourists, there were no longer minibuses waiting to take them back to their hotels, the restaurants and local bars were already deserted. For one couple, the wife was in such a state of panic, banging on the window of a car which refused to give them a lift, the husband found a motorbike with keys and they stole it, disappearing no one knew where, but no doubt uphill somewhere. Others had simply walked arriving in groups to climb the steep drive to the temple. Some were in tears, others looking as if they had lost friends or partners.

Local services were also arriving, ambulance, police and trucks from the local government with bottled water to distribute.

Amazingly, by 6 o’clock, our little group of children were served hot food which we had brought from the kitchens of the orphanage. The staggering organisation of the foundation to feed and take care of their children, made me feel proud and happy to be part of it. Later on in the evening, we even had cake.

We all wanted to know what was going on elsewhere. We heard that a 10 metre wave had hit Pangnga, north of Phuket and also that the sea had disappeared from the beach in Patong foreboding the arrival of the tsunami wave. Phuket airport had closed down. Minibuses were arriving to evacuate tourists to Phuket city hall. Maybe the administration had decided it was better policy to keep them together in such emergency. Many were worried about their belongings, passports and so on which they had left in their hotels on Patong beach.

One little boy, Non, a newcomer to the children’s home, developed a high fever. We took him for a shower to try to bring his temperature down. Others played games, entertained themselves. One little 4 year old, Feng, gave my arms a massage while we were waiting.

Eventually, by 8 in the evening, we were given the all clear to return home. A French tourist was wondering how he could find out whether Patong would be accessible, supposedly access roads had been closed, whilst at the same time congratulating me for being part of the Sunshine Village foundation. How can I leave this little community of which I am so much a part? Such events and living through them cements affection, just a the Iranian Revolution made it impossible to leave before seeing it through.

Amazing, eh?

It’s interesting how, unconsciously, we can pick up on other people’s sense of panic. There was a moment when I could notice a slight sense of that hysteria appearing, which, rather than going balmy, you immediately check its arrival. But you do start preparing yourself mentally for possible futures in which you have lost everything and the entire area is devastated. What would you do?

By the way, if you would like to be part of our English teaching program, we would be glad to share with you possibilities how you can support it.