It would appear Weerasak Lamai walked out of the frying pan into the fire.
Mr. Lamai left the ravages of Grand Cayman following the scourge of Hurricane Ivan to return home to Phuket Island, Thailand.
Sunday he saw disaster that paled against Ivan’s destruction. He and his family miraculously survived a 9.0-magnitude earthquake that triggered massive tsunamis. The death toll is expected to reach more than 100,000 across southern Asia.
Mr Lamai said he had ample warning that Hurricane Ivan was going to hit Grand Cayman, but ‘tsunami was on top of us in minutes.’
‘It was panic everywhere, people shouted run! Run! Everybody run like crazy. But the water was too fast and too powerful, it just started swallowing people up. They run but not fast enough.’
Mr. Lamai, via telephone from Phuket, related his horrific experience to his friend and Thai Orchid Restaurant co-worker Sadawut Sriling in Cayman Wednesday.
‘Thousands injured; over 1,400 dead. Each day they are finding more and more people who were buried alive,’ his friend translated for the Caymanian Compass.
‘It was just so sudden. Most people did not even have the chance to run or take cover when the great wave was upon them.
‘I saw someone die in front of me as he tried desperately to find something to hold on to as the water hit him.
‘I watched as people were slammed into the buildings by the great wall of water, some trying desperately to hold on to whatever was nearby, while other scrambled to reach higher ground,’ said Mr. Lamai.
He said that before the wave many people were saying, ‘What is going on with the water on the beach? It is just getting lower and lower and seems to be moving away from the shore.’
‘Surprised at seeing something like this, most people decided to go down to the beach to take a closer look,’ said Mr. Lamai.
‘One helper in the hotel said she had overheard people talking that a big wave was coming and they must not go to the beach, but no one paid it any mind, they thought that it was just the normal high water that would come.
‘Suddenly screams of panic took hold as many shouted, ‘look!’ A great wall of water towered to the sky and people started running.’
Mr. Lamai said he and his family ran from his home, which is not far from the Sarasen Beach on Phuket.
Outside his home he heard people screaming ‘run, run.’
‘I ran to a nearby hotel with my family.
‘I was on the ground floor of a hotel complex and scrambled to reach the second floor. The water kept on coming as I continued to scramble to the third floor.
‘On the third floor as the water pushed me up, I grabbed hold of a screen and held on for dear life with my family.
‘I do not remember anything more until I awoke in the hospital next day,’ he said.
‘Walking around next day when the water had receded, all I could say was ‘this is a terrible mistake.’
About 100,000 people live on Phuket, which is Thailand’s largest island.