A Sad Day

26th December, Swindon, UK

Ian writes:

I received a strange text message this morning. It concerned the well-being of a couple whom we met in Koh Samui, Thailand.  I was told they were 'fine but watching out for aftershocks'. Earthquake? In Thailand?

A quick check of today's news revealed the extent of what happened - a massive undersea earthquake that caused a tsunami to strike coastlines thousands of miles away, affecting India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

It occurred to us that it could so easily have been us - places that have been affected that we had been to just a month ago at the tail end of or trip around SE Asia, including Penang (Batu Ferringhi being one of the places affected), KL (which suffered shock damage, not from the tsunami) and Krabi. There can be fewer things more scary than relaxing on a beach, enjoying a summer break from the UK winter, and then spotting huge waves making their way towards your simple beach hut. Hundreds of divers and diving instructors in the waters around Malaysia and the Andaman Islands are now reported missing (many of them possibly dead). Again, that could easily have been me (although admittedly I only dived in the Gulf of Thailand which was not affected).

For now, I'm watching the events as closely as I can and hoping that the many people we met on our travels are safe and well.

[Update] I have received news that our friends in Penang and other parts of Malaysia are all well, including one of them who was staying in Chennai, India at the time (also affected badly by the waves).

"When the quake hit, I was actually with another friend in Penang and we had to evacuate from her 10th floor apartment. The tremor was not only felt, it was visible. The bed, ceiling fan and things were shaking slightly. But we were not near the coastline when the tsunamis hit Penang's shores. Tremors from quakes in Indonesia are sometimes felt in Penang, and it is not uncommon. But the magnitude of the tremors was a more than the usual. The tsunamis is a whole different story. Malaysia has probably not seen this type of natural disaster before.

Tremors were felt in northern Malaysia especially in Penang and Kedah, where Langkawi is. Smaller tremors were felt elsewhere including KL, but none felt in Malacca, Johor (closest to Singapore) and Pahang.

No communications interruptions were experienced. I have just returned to KL and saw this email. I think I received your SMS but did not respond cos I wasn't sure who it was from. :) Sorry.

Siew Ling is now in Chennai where tsunamis hit the Marina Beach, but she is fine as well. She's staying 10km from the coast, in the inner parts of Chennai. Many more people in Chennai died from the tsunamis than in Malaysia but Siew Ling is safe where she is right now. She is due to return to Malaysia this Wednesday.

Li Ping was due to go to Phuket today but has cancelled the trip. Thailand, especially Phuket, is badly hit as well."

You can read others' experiences of the tidal wave at BBC News.