And the ocean continues to haunt me..


When we were asked to think about memory that made us feel close to nature, the first thing that popped into my mind was the holiday I spent in Beruwela, Sri Lanka in 2004. I remember the day like it was yesterday. Beruwela is a coastal city in Sri Lanka.  We planned to spend the Christmas week in a sea-side hotel in Beruwela. The ocean was beautiful, golden sand, palm trees everywhere, sea shells… The noise of the waves, I loved to close my eyes and listen to the sound of the ocean. I was 10 back then, but I still remember every single detail. All these wonderful feelings I had about the ocean just washed away on the 26th of December 2004. It was the day after Christmas, the morning was beautiful as ever, I went for a walk on the seaside with my sister. Despite the beautiful weather, I didn’t feel like continuing my walk by the ocean. I came back to our room with my sister. Our room was located on the ground floor of the hotel and was about 500 m away from the ocean. After about 10 minutes, water started gushing in from the ocean. It flooded our room. This was kind of ‘fun’ for me and my sister. We started splashing water at each other and enjoying the moment. Our parents woke up, and my dad said that this is not a good sign, he instructed us to move to the reception hall which was located in a hilly area. All at once, loud warning siren started playing. That sound was so scary, my sister and I started to panic. All the water which was flooded into our room (about 2 ft.) got sucked back to the ocean. You could literally walk about 100-200m into the ocean. There was no water but you could see a lot of dead fish. People were fascinated by this fish and they started to move towards the ocean and collect them. However my dad said that we should get to higher ground, as soon as we got into the reception hall, the beautiful ocean got so evil and the waves started to increase in height as it raced towards us. I thought that I was going to die in that moment. My dad hugged my mom, me and my sister and turned us away from the sight of the wave. The wave engulfed all the people who went to see the fish and it destroyed a lot of nearby buildings. My sister and I started to cry continuously because at that moment we knew for sure the potential of the wave. About fifteen minutes after the second wave, the third giant wave hit us. As we were in an elevated area, we were so lucky not to have hit by that wave. The hotel staff instructed us not to go to any upper floors in the building as the waves have damaged the primary structure of the building and it could collapse at any moment. All I could hear were screams and people crying. Sri Lanka had never experienced anything like this before. This was the biggest Tsunami ever recorded in the history. It was caused due to a 9.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Sumatra. This Tsunami was as tall as 50m reaching 5 km inland. I hated the sea for about 5 years, I would not even go or even look at the sea. I still don’t trust the sea. I am so lucky to still have my family with me. 30,196 people died in Sri Lanka while 21,411 got injured. Overall this Tsunami killed 230,000 people. This childhood experience made me distrust the ocean. It’s actually interesting how this was the first thing that popped into my head on Tuesday when considering all the other beautiful encounters I had with nature. I still dream at least thrice a month about Tsunami. This disaster left a huge impact in my life, about how I look at the ocean and the environment around it. My childhood experiences and the cultural beliefs made this nightmare stand apart from all the wonderful encounters I had with nature.
Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effect_of_the_2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake_on_Sri_Lanka
http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2011/03/the-10-most-destructive-tsunamis-in-history/

A M Ovini H Amarasinghe

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12 thoughts on “And the ocean continues to haunt me..

  1. Many people think of nature as a safe, Disney like Eden. I too experienced the wrath of nature in the 8/9/1969 tornado. No sirens, no warning, no fear. I was caught outside and thrown twice, sliding down the street on my belly for hundreds of feet, clothes shredded until they came off, crawled through sparking wires and somehow made it home.

    Hours later we got to the hospital, which had no electric. They set my leg the best they could in the dark and with no xrays and bandaged my cuts, bruises and abrasive burns. We were sent home, since the hospital was full and we still had a house.

    A week later they had to break my leg again to reset it and pain killers weren’t available for whatever reason.

    Today I remain respectful of the wind and always remember that nature can turn from sunny and seventy to 200 mph winds in a matter of seconds.

    Mike Cappel

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  2. Your father is a wise man! Thanks for sharing. It would uneasy to describe the moment even though it was something happened more 10 years before. Many people without knowledge of nature woud misinterpret the warning signs.

    The natural disaster that I encounter so far is a typhoon. I know a typhoon is a different scale of natural disaster and more usual encounter to the human world. Several days before, people were told that a typhoon is approaching to the homeland. The city was somewhat prepared and constructed to lead water to the river or ocean. I felt relatively safe from home.

    I hope as science advances more and more, we could predict risk from encountering unusual natural disaster and we could predict the nature disaster. And people should take the information seriously.

    Jisung Yu

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    • Hmm ya. In that time, Tsunamis were never recorded in that area and we had never heard of Tsunamis. If people had known more about Tsunami’s a lot of lives could have been saved but now with the improvement of the technology more lives could be saved.

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  3. I am so sorry you had this experience. It must have been terrifying to go through that, especially at a young age. I’m also sorry to hear that this has soured your opinion on the ocean, but I think that you could possibly give it another chance. Natural disasters occur often and can damage many things, but I think it’s important that we pull through.

    Thank you for the post!

    Gabriella Feltman

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    • Thanks Gabriella. I totally agree with you, I should give it another chance. Maybe I was too small when it happened. Things that happen when we are really young tends to grab hold of our memories, maybe that’s why it’s so hard to let go of my attitude.

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  4. Wow, I cannot imagine what experiencing something like that would feel like. I think this is a great example of how nature has the power to create beautiful things as well as the power to cause great destruction. I agree with Mike that we tend to think of nature in terms of beauty and paradise and subject to our actions as humans, which it certainly can be, but we often forget the true power nature really holds over us.

    Katie Clontz

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    • Ya I totally agree with you. I used to love the ocean! The beauty of the ocean vanished in few hours, in my case. But I should learn to let go of the fear I have and just remember the power of nature.

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  5. Holy crap! That’s one hell of an experience. I’m glad that you survived. – Matt McDaniel

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  6. I can not imagine what that would feel like. Your father is a brave man. I am so glad you shared this story. Many people do think of nature as beautiful but it can be horrific sometimes. I am glad you and your family are okay.

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    • Thank you so much! Ya the nature can sometimes turn to our enemy. In this case my attitude towards the ocean completely changed in few hours. It’s really interesting how this paticular incident came to my mind when we were asked to think about the environment.

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