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Penang OFs witness earthquake and tsunamis
Following the recent massive 8.9 Richter-scale earthquake off Aceh in Indonesia on 26 December, three OFs report their first-hand accounts of the effects of the earthquake. The reports are from Bob Holland (R57-65) who lives in Penang, just over 300-miles away from Aceh, Will Ryder-Davies (Z88-89) who is visiting Penang while on another overland world trip, and John Birt (S59-63) who lives in Koh Samui in Thailand.

If any other OFs have reports on the earthquake, please send to the SOF Web Team or "Post a Comment" using the link below.

A brief message from Bob Holland states:

"The earthquake occured at 9 a.m. which shook the building for at least 2 minutes; and then at 1:30 p.m. the waves came. (see photo of one the first waves - for size look at the person standing on the beach - we don't know if he survived). We are OK, but we lost the perimeter wall of our block. There have been quite a few deaths in Penang and over 1,000 overseas. Three of the fishing boats in front of our flat overturned and sadly not everyone made it to shore."

And from Will Ryder-Davies who was staying with his wife, Emma, at the famous E&O Hotel in Penang:

"It was pretty shocking here. Just around 9am this morning (1am GMT) as everyone was waking up to a Boxing Day breakfast clasping their heads due to the over indulgences of Christmas Day, the room started to move. For a full 5 minutes the floor, chandeliers and ceiling fans rocked with a very deep slow, sickening rhythmic sway. Five hours later we were watching the BBC World News about the tsunami which had just hit all coastlines when there was a tremendous, thunderous roar outside. Running out on to the balcony we witnessed people being overturned on their ‘sun loungers’ as wave after wave crashed into the hotel. Several people were dragged out from the beaches further round the coast. The strangest thing is that this time last year we just avoided the earthquake in Bam, Iran (see "Oooops 11" in their fascinating Travel Log at www.hms123.com).

We were due to catch the morning boat to Medan in Sumatra tomorrow - 27 December. We're wondering if we should still go and volunteer with an aid organisation."

John Birt was safe enough in Koh Samui, but has been in touch with an ex-Gurkah colleague:
"While here on Koh Samui we were completely missed by the tragic events of Boxing Day in the Andaman Sea/bay of Bengal, I have held several phone conversations with friends in Phuket. One, who served in the Gurkhas with me over 35 years ago, was on his yacht in Nai Harn Bay at the sout western tip of Phuket. The first he knew something was up was when his boat spun round through 180 degrees and he suddenly was aware that the sea had breached the sea wall and was tossing taxis around like match box toys. Amazingly, apart from rising up and down with the sea the impact on him was minimal although he has decided to stay put for the present for fear of holing his boat on some passing flotsam. I think that this will take years to sort out but worry that it will have a major impact on the confidence to invest in this area which has relied hugely on tourism for so long. We shall see.

There is also a rumour circulating in Thailand that the King's grandson was killed out on a jet ski in Khao Lak to the north of Phuket".

As the fullness of this tragedy is revealled, it seems that some quirk of geography spared Penang from the full horror of the on-slaught that hit Phukhet and other parts of Asia. See the BBC News reports on the Asia Quake Disaster.