Heading out to Thailand you can’t help but think about the devastation that took place when a Tsunami struck land in 2004. Its power was so strong and destructive that it wiped out entire towns, killed hundreds of thousands of people and reached several kilometres inland.
The tsunami struck the west coast of Thailand without warning, early in the morning on 26th December 2014. Many people were out and about, sitting around their hotel pools or sat on the beach.
It was the deadliest known tsunami in history.
What caused the tsunami?
The tsunami originated from a 9.1 magnitude earthquake that struck just off the north coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. As the wave raced across the Andaman Sea it gathered jet fast speeds of up to 500 mph. Reaching the coast the wave slowed down but grew taller as the water was compressed, reaching a staggering height of 10 metres. It has been said that the wave carried the energy of around 23,000 Hiroshima bombs.
It’s hard to imagine that a wave of such great magnitude and length could really exist. It was made far more severe as it struck so early in the morning during high tide. This led to a significantly greater volume of water being impacted and carried inland.
We recently stayed in Khao Lak which was one of the worst hit places in Thailand as the entire town was washed away. Walking around the town there are memories of that morning all around you. Along the beach front there are regular memorials to those who lost their lives that day. And all of the roads away from the beach now have signs stating that they are a tsunami evacuation route. The organised trips will also make a comment about the tsunami as it affected so many people in the country.
Khao Lak Tsunami Memorial
A short tuk tuk ride from Khao Lak is the the tsunami memorial which presents many stories about that day and the victims of the wave at the memorial museum. There are 2 here so you can visit either one to learn about the day.
Police boat 813
The focal point of the memorial here is however police boat 813 (Buretpadungkit).
On the morning of the tsunami the boat was anchored 1 nautical mile from the shore and was protecting Her Royal Highness Ubonrat Rajakanya Siriwaddhana Phannawaddee who was staying in a nearby hotel and jet skiing at the time.
The power of the water swept the boat almost 2 km inland to the location where it sits today. It is a really visible memory of that day and the immense power of the water.
Official death toll
The Thai government have released some official numbers as follows:
- 4,812 confirmed dead
- 8,457 injured
- 4,499 missing
Across the region the final death count was over 230,000 with countless injured or missing and millions left homeless.
Pay your respects
Heading to Thailand you will find numerous tsunami memorials around the west coast however if you are staying in the Khao Lak region be sure to make the short ride to the official memorial that is based here to see how it has impacted the country and pay your respects. You can simply read the stories, buy some of the memorial merchandise or leave a donation. It’s free to visit.
Are you heading to Thailand or Khao Lak this year? Let us know in the comments!