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We met a number of people who survived being rolled underwater inside automobiles and many who grabbed hold of floating debris and were washed several kilometers inland. We head about enough miraculous escapes to make us think hard about how to help flat land villages where running to high ground is impossible.

The tsunami that impacted West coast Aceh was between 10-15m with run-ups of up to 30m (100ft) and yet many people survived by holding on to material with only poor floatation. Some children survived by holding onto wooden doors and planks. Vehicles lost windows in the initial impact and flooded so they were rolled along in the debris at the bottom of the wave and terribly crushed. Occupants were protected by the metal body and they managed to find air pockets in the rolling vehicle and to survive 20 minutes or so until the waves pushed them into the forest or onto low hills and the water receded.

Nias The Nias quake hit and we were asked to rush to the island by Aus Aid. The area had been hit by a 5m tsunami and people were traumatized by the combination of quake and inundation. The image below sums up the trauma these coastal villages face long term.

The residents of Onolimbu Nias had all constructed tsunami escape rafts from scrap wood. Every house had some kind of raft and the collective effort to make them was substantial. This photo shows the best built escape raft in the village and it only had 3 plastic drums to support it. Most had one or two.  Tsunamis arrive as a wall of churning debris that would destroy these flimsy structures and only add to the dangerous debris in the water. The villagers asked us to reassure them that the rafts were a good idea. We did not know what to say and we never forgot the desperation of this lowland village. 


Driver Survived the Tsunami
Sirombu Tsunami Rafts