Rockwell native Steve Park and his wife, Margot, were on the Thai island of Phuket, where they are building a home, when Sunday's tsunami struck. They have been giving North Iowans first-hand reports of the situation on Phuket.
KHAO LAK, Thailand — I went up north to the Khao Lak area yesterday (Thursday) with some friends to see how we could help. I was not prepared for what I saw. It looks like a bomb went off and wiped out everything for over a kilometer from the beach to the two-lane coastal road that is the only way to access the area.
We stopped at a hastily arranged rescue center along the side of the road. Across the road were hundreds of bodies lined up, most left in the sun because all the trees are gone and they only had one awning to erect to provide a little shade. The sight and stench were horrible.
We put big gobs of Vicks VapoRub up our nostrils and started helping bag the bodies. But the pickup trucks kept coming, bringing more bodies faster than we could wrap them in plastic and bed sheets (there were no proper body bags).
Later in the morning, some Thai rescue teams arrived and took over our work. By early afternoon, more awnings arrived and some body bags arrived. We then walked back toward the hills, behind the large naval boat that was washed over a kilometer from the beach.
We found several bodies in the debris back on the hill. Later, walking back toward the beach, the smell of decaying bodies buried under the rubble was everywhere. But there is so much debris that heavy equipment will be needed to remove it. One rescue team from Taiwan was digging through rubble by hand and recovered one body.
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At one point, people started screaming and yelling, "the water is coming."
Most of the people ran up into the hills. Some men up on top of what was left of a two-story building looked out toward the sea and couldn't see anything.
ut the panic had already happened by then. It was apparently triggered by a news report in India to be on the lookout for another tsunami.
On the way back to Phuket in late afternoon, we saw hundreds and hundreds of bodies lined up at a wat (Buddhist temple) not too far from where we had been working.
The death toll that is being reported is much less than what the eventual toll will be. And most of the bodies will never be identified.