Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Another Reminder Of The 2004 Tsunami

A still captured from the trailer clip below

While mortality figures from the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting tsunami were far higher across Indonesia than they were in Thailand (130,736 confirmed deaths in Indonesia vs 5,395 in Thailand) the emotional factor regarding Thailand was far higher for most of you regulars here, and that's perfectly understandable; any personal connection to a disaster that brings a clearer image of people and places we're somehow attached to make the event far more vivid in our mind, and for many of us all the more emotional.

In addition to a couple of tabloid-type video releases that were rushed out shortly after the 26th of December event, HBO and the BBC broadcast a mini-series two years later. "Tsunami: The Aftermath" is still readily available on DVD, and is scheduled to re-broadcast on HBO again this December. My main complaint about the film was that I didn't feel it showed enough of what happened to the native population, but I understand it was aimed at a farang audience. Nevertheless, it triggered the intended emotional response and was reasonably well received.

There's a new feature film currently in post-production that looks as though it may fall into the same rut, although I'm hoping for more. "The Impossible" was filmed in Spain and Thailand, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona and starring Ewen McGregor, Geraldine Chaplin and Naomi Watts. This early trailer is in Spanish, but the film will be released in English. You won't have any trouble understanding what's going on:

Many of us repeat visitors to Thailand know (or knew) someone who had ties to the Phuket area during that unfortunate period of time. Some had visited there themselves. One couple I know were most thankful that their business here prevented their annual beach-side holiday there in 2004 or they probably wouldn't be around to tell the tale.

My most personal connection was via an Isaan friend, one of my first contacts in Thailand many years ago. He was working the reception desk graveyard shift at a hotel quite near the shore. Most mornings after he was off work around 08:30 or thereabouts he'd go walk along the beach for an hour or so and visit with friends to unwind before walking up the hill to his room, but he was more tired than usual that morning and skipped his usual stroll. As he sat safely in his room, the water surged in and took the lives of everyone in the reception area and lobby of his hotel. I knew he was in the area, and the wait before I heard from him seemed far longer than it actually was.

 The tsunami in Japan a year ago was just as awful - if not more so, in some ways - but without the personal connection it didn't have the same impact that the 2004 disaster had on me, despite the far more complete coverage of the event. That day in 2004 will stay with me for a long, long time.

 "The Impossible" is scheduled for worldwide release in October.

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