Tuesday, May 16

Tsunami Recovery in Thailand | Part 8: THE RESILIENCE OF SURVIVORS

(Part 8 of a 12 part series)

Five weeks after the Tsunami hit, Sishir Chang went to Thailand to see how the people there were recovering and to see how those concerned could help. The following is the eighth installment of his experiences in the aftermath of one of the world'’s most devastating natural disasters. Originally published in the Southasian, the article is being republished here, with previously unpublished photographs, with the author's permission.


The resilience of those who have survived the tsunami is often astounding. Many of the foreigners who have survived and remain in Phuket are elderly and have chosen to stay because of their love of the place. Marius Poatalle a 75-year-old survivor from Monaco said that he had been washed out of the second floor of his hotel. “I pray to God, Allah, Buddha, anyone!” he said. Even after that experience he still hung out on the beach at Patong showing off the scars he got from the tsunami and haranguing people about French colonial policies in broken English. Another elderly survivor from Australian I met in a Patong nightclub had broken his hip in the tsunami yet in his words the worst thing that happened was that he “couldn’t enjoy all of the lovely Thai ladies.”

The Thais are more circumspect about surviving tsunami. Many of them feel privileged that they’ve survived. According to Maem, a cabana vendor in Patong, “My customers die but I live.” Outwardly its difficult to see if they are suffering from depression or post traumatic stress but I did hear from aid workers and a monk that there are many who are suffering but don’t show it. Aid workers say that in the refugee camps many children have nightmares about being swallowed up by waves. Duane Reid a volunteer paramedic from Australia, said that he’d seen Thais staring fixedly at the sea. Even so he stated that the Thais have dealt with the aftermath far better than he expected, “In Australia after a major disaster people are depressed but here the Thais still seem friendly and upbeat.” He added, “These people have been to hell and back its just amazing what they’ve done.”

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