At 11:30pm local time, the population in Phuket started receiving the first reports that a potential Tsunami could be coming their way. Karsten Bo Andersen, who has lived and worked in Phuket for many years, tells the story of how the Tsunami warning instantly created a scene of panic and chaos among the local population in Patong Beach.
“I was sitting at a restaurant in town, when we suddenly saw people running back and forth outside on the street. Immediately, all the TV-screens in the bars and restaurants were switched to the Thai news channels, which reported on the earthquake down south. In the following hours panic roamed the streets. People packed their cars and raced out of town – many with people sitting on the roof of the car,” he says.
“It’s hard to describe the fear that could be seen in the eyes of those Thais who had experienced the horror of the December Tsunami. Most people down here had just begun to get over the worst after that catastrophe, but the warning of yet another wave immediately ripped open the mental wounds. It was clear to see,” says Karsten Bo Andersen, who also explains that a ‘telephone storm’ took place during those hectic hours, as people were calling random phone numbers just to make sure that as many people as possible would be notified and awoken.
“Two hours after the first warning, everything was completely dead here. The only people who stayed behind were people who, like me, could see pretty quickly that the quake had struck on the other side of Sumatra,” he says.
Some of the larger hotels in Phuket, like the famous Dusit Laguna, evacuated all the guests on the two bottom floors and asked them to stay on the third floor of the hotel until 3am that morning.
The Tsunami warning was officially withdrawn by the Thai authorities before the Tuesday dawn.