I want to tell you of my story of survival of a little known Tsunami that hit south Java 2 yrs after the big one hit Aceh, North Sumatra.
My wife and I were on a month’s vacation starting the 1st of July, 2006. We decided to spend it in a seaside resort town called Pangandaran, about
a 9 hour drive from Jakarta. When we arrived, we stayed in our favourite hotel which was across the street from the beach. There is a long road that
runs parallel to the beach and hotels are not allowed to build on the beach side. We took a ground floor room that faced the car park and the beach
over the road. The day before the tsunami hit was the last day of school holidays and all the kids from west java were down at the beach celebrating.
There were thousands of motorcycles and the beach was so crowded you could barely get a spot. My wife and I always went back to our hotel room
around 4pm each day for a 2 hr rest before dinner and drinks. This was our habit in Pangandaran.
On Monday, July 17, 2006 the day of the tsunami, a friend invited us over to his house which was a couple of kms from the beach for a meal and drinks
so we went. While there, at about 3:20 pm we felt a very strong tremor, pictures were shaking on the walls etc but we just laughed and thought
nothing of it. About a half an hour later we were feeling tired and decided to go back to our hotel near the beach. We said our goodbyes and drove
off with a friend in the back. We had to drop him off at his restaurant that he managed which was behind our hotel about 200 m from the beach. When
we got there, my wife wanted to immediately go home but I felt like one more drink so we sat down. No sooner had I opened the bottle, than we heard
this loud swooooiisssshhhhh and I looked at my wife and she looked puzzled and then we looked at my friend and that’s when I knew we were in big
trouble. He had the same surprised look on his face as we had and HE lived down there! Then in a second, water came into the back area of the
restaurant. I saw it first and stood up and cried “Water!” That’s when everyone yelled Tsunami!!! OMG, what terror. We ran out on the street
and everyone was in panic and chaos. Cars, motorbikes, bikes people all criss-crossing not knowing where to run except away from the beach. My wife
yelled, ‘get into the car!’, so we did with 2 of our friends. We had to drive through a market place and it was really jammed with people crying,
screaming, running in all directions and in the middle of all this, 4 unknown people jumped into the back of my SUV.
So there were 8 of us in the car, all crying and yelling and I had to keep my cool coz I was driving. I’m not a brave man but I said to myself
“if I lose it now, like everyone else, for sure we’re gonners!” That thought held me together, but I keep thinking where and when will the next
wave come…..so we were driving away from the beach but in a mother of a traffic jam…sitting ducks. After half an hour we reached the base of the
nearest mountain and started to ascend. God, I never felt such relief. We drove for a couple of hours and found a small house that put all of us up
for the night on their floor. In the morning, we went back down to Pangandaran but we weren’t ready for what we were about to see.
Here is a link, this will explain more:
The devastation was shocking. Our hotel room was upside down with doors ripped off, concrete walls with huge gaping holes, cars in the parking lot on
their side or turned over, and part of the hotel missing. It was a wreck! We drove down the beach road which wasn’t easy with all the debris and
sand and realized the entire village made mainly of bamboo was completely gone. Only thing left were the concrete floors of the houses. I won’t go
into too much more detail except to say that nearly everyone in this small seaside town lost someone or was injured to some degree. If it had
happened 24 hrs earlier, the death toll would have been enormous with all the kids down for the weekend. As it was, it was relatively quiet so
casualties were minimized. It took me years to come to grips with what really happened that afternoon and although I have been back, I have never
felt quite that comfortable as I used to in my beach paradise.
The amazing part in retrospect was the fact that my wife and I were always in our hotel room in the late afternoon taking a rest except on that
fateful day. Had we been there……! Even the guy that invited us for lunch on that day was not a close friend of ours, just an acquaintance!