Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Report 3: "Tsunami Stories"

Along the Western shore of Thailand, dawn began as it had for centuries on December 26th, 2004; the sun peeking over the lush green hills to the East before spreading a warm blanket of golden rays across the wide waters of the Andaman Sea. The local residents of the area began their days as usual, also, but it was the last time they would do so for many, many months to come - if ever.

Two minutes before 08:00 local Phuket time, the third largest earthquake on record began to shift the floor of the Indian Ocean to the East of Indonesia, some 500 miles from the shore of Phuket. Lasting between eight and ten minutes, the magnitude 9+ earthquake initiated a tsunami that generated more power (according to the Tsunami Society) than twice the total of all of the explosives used in World War II, including the two atomic bombs.

Approximately 90 minutes later it hit the shore of Thailand, where it would kill 5,400 and leave nearly another 3,000 missing.

A quick search of shows at least two dozen books and published papers on the disaster; this is just one of them. I found it in a bookstore in Bangkok and thought it would be an "easy" read while on holiday. It was quick - it's a mere 122 pages - but it wasn't altogether easy to be reminded of the disaster through the 16 personal recollections of the day, along with eight from Burma (although those are only a short paragraph each).

I enjoyed the casual, almost conversational style of the book; somewhat like sitting across from someone, listening to them relating what happened to them that eventful day. There's a small thumbnail photo of each person, putting a face to the story, which I also liked, and about 18 black and white photos throughout the book, some spreading over both pages as one larger image.

There's good news and bad news about actually getting a copy of this book.

The bad news is if you want a physical copy you'll have to find it in a used book store or from a private vendor, as the initial printing of 15,000 copies - done as a fundraising effort for 16 children who lost their parents that day - has sold out. The good news is that author Bill O'Leary has generously made it available as a free download in e-book (PDF) form here. He says they are still supporting the education of the 16 kids, so if you feel you want to make a donation to them, that's entirely up to you. I've done no research on the group myself, and I'll leave that up to you.

As the old TV show used to say "There are eight millions stories in the naked city... this is one of them". There are a couple of dozen in "Tsunami Stories," but they're worth the time to read and reflect on, as unpleasant as it can be to be reminded of such a terrible event.

[The upcoming feature film "The Impossible" looks as though there's a chance we may see more of what probably happened that morning than some of us may wish to see, too, but I'm sure I'll go see it. There's a preview clip of it in the April 29th post, if you missed that.]

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