If the sea retreats and vanishes, run like hell (2004 Thai tsunami video)

I’d never seen this particular video of the horrible Thai “Boxing Day” tsunami of 2004 (I can’t believe it’s been that long).


It’s not a particularly nasty video, don’t worry. But what’s interesting is that it shows the scene BEFORE all the damage. It shows how everything was normal, tourists and Thai people alike playing on the beach, when suddenly the tide went out and left boats on dry land. No one knew what was going on. That, the experts say, should have been the warning sign that caused people to flee. And that’s why I’m posting this – it’s a good lesson for people to learn, that if the tide goes out bizarrely, and unexpectedly, run like hell.

According to Wikipedia, tsunamis are not always preceded by the tide going out. But in this case it was, and apparently in several instances, people understood what was going on – including in one case, a ten year old British girl who had learned about tsunamis in school, and then warned everyone – and a lot of people were saved as a result:

One of the few coastal areas to evacuate ahead of the tsunami was on the Indonesian island of Simeulue, very close to the epicentre. Island folklore recounted an earthquake and tsunami in 1907, and the islanders fled to inland hills after the initial shaking yet before the tsunami struck.[46] On Maikhao beach in northern Phuket, Thailand, a 10-year-old British tourist named Tilly Smith had studied tsunami in geography at school and recognised the warning signs of the receding ocean and frothing bubbles. She and her parents warned others on the beach, which was evacuated safely.[47] John Chroston, a biology teacher from Scotland, also recognised the signs at Kamala Bay north of Phuket, taking a busload of vacationers and locals to safety on higher ground.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • cole3244

    you took ignorance a long time ago.

  • milli2

    Heartbreaking as hell to watch.

  • Monoceros Forth

    So the answer is to substitute one angry deity for another? I’m sorry…if that’s what you call knowledge, I’ll take ignorance.

  • ferd

    Run like hell … to higher ground, or higher floors in strong buildings.

  • cole3244

    and global warming is cyclical in your world, if there isn’t a straight line to the answer you are obviously too uninterested to look for one.

    ignorance is bliss after all.

  • Crazy. I was a lifeguard for years. We used to watch the lightning hit the water and all its fingers that would branch out throughout the pool. Very cool to watch. Made me really appreciate all those years when we were kicked out of the pool during thunder storms. There was a good reason.

  • So you’re saying lightning struck twice :-) that’s pretty freaky

  • The Tsunami sirens were wailing for hours on the Kailua-Kona Coast after the Chilean Earthquake in 2010, and it is not something to take lightly, given the waves are the power of a freight train..

  • UncleBucky

    ALL schools from grade school to university should have courses and information warning about such disasters and what to do about it.

    Even in Illinois they are putting out PSAs about earthquakes. Good!

  • emjayay

    Rampant homosexuality, obviously. Also, Satan.

  • Drew2u

    This reminds me of a story of a mudslide/avalanche in the Italian Alps – I think a dam failed – and the warning before the actual debris was a hurricane-force gust of wind as the slide was displacing the air in front of it.

  • Drew2u

    Lightning can strike as much as, I believe, 3 miles away from the source hence the phrase “bolt out of the clear blue sky” or something like that.

  • Drew2u

    You need to watch “The Weather Channel” more ;)
    They have a show about prospectors who mine on public lands (but private claim sites; I wonder how one registers for those?) which sometimes involves the sides of mountains. They always talk about phenomenon like that.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    I lived in Hawaii for years. Whenever there was a tsunami warning, the tourists would all head to the beach and the locals would all head inland.

  • Phil

    I had a near miss while living in Florida, the lightning capital of the world. Sitting in the Florida room, which was tiled, in bare feet. It hit about 100 feet away, but I definitely got a zap from the slab floor.

  • Just an elbow

    Jeez, the Abrahamic death cult not a bloodthirsty enough anthropomorphic fantasy for you?
    And pray tell, just HOW was mankind responsible for an undersea earthquake?

  • Phil

    Many of the videos of the Japan tsunami of 2011 show the same phenomenon. Since it happened in March and was actually snowing in some of them. no one was near a beach. There was also an extensive warning system in Japan. But you do see many videos of boats grounded and water rushing out to sea before the waves hit. This is the best example I found today. It is taken at a river estuary. You can see the water level has dropped, exposing the riverbed, just before the tsunami hits.


  • I knew about the tingling because I was nearly hit on two occasions. In one, early 80s, I was driving a car with the window down and my arm resting on the sill. I watched as a curtain of rain came at me and had just enough time to think, “I should roll up the window” — when the car was hit. Bright white light, blinded, and instantly the engine cut out.

    I managed to pull over safely, but it was hours before I could feel my left arm again or move it. But about a second before the strike, I felt the tingling and the hair on my arm rise up.

    I was able to restart the car and get to my destination, but the following day, it wouldn’t start and we found significant electrical damage. The mechanic was surprised it ran at all after the strike; on the other hand, back then Chevy built its cars like tanks.

    Anyway, it’s worth knowing that even inside a car isn’t safe.

    The other time, I was in a driveway. I felt it again, and almost literally dove for cover. Lightning struck maybe 50′ away from me, scattering gravel everywhere.

    Anyway, if you want to find out what it feels like, find a friendly science geek with a Van De Graaff generator.

    That all said though, you can’t depend on the tingling as a warning. Most who are hit by lightning have said they had no idea it was going to happen, just boom. So I have a healthy respect for lightning storms. ;-)

  • Wow. I’d NEVER seen that photo. And I’d never heard about tingling or your hair standing on end. Even growing up in the midwest where we have great thunderstorms, never knew you could possibly sense the potential for lightning (though I’ve got a decent eye and nose for tornado weather).

  • I also found it haunting. And I can’t help but wonder if he truly knew he was seconds away from dying.

  • I’d never seen that until now.

  • And then there’s this oldie-but-memorable-goodie: Hikers climbing Moro Rock who didn’t realize the extreme danger they were in when their hair started to stand on end. (Iconic photo from 1975)


    There are hundreds more lightning-related injuries and deaths than due to tsunamis, so this is one of those things everybody should know. Here’s a great link from the National Weather Service on lightning safety:


    Now I’ll be honest and admit that if I went indoors every time I heard thunder, I’d probably be housebound from July through September here in New Mexico. Nevertheless, the some of these tips are useful to remember, especially when caught outside during a thunderstorm (and where moving inside isn’t possible):

    – Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
    – Never lie flat on the ground
    – Never shelter under an isolated tree
    – Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
    – Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
    – Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

    The ‘safety position’ during a bad thunderstorm is in as low a place as you can find (although don’t go into arroyos or ditches because they can fill rapidly with water and that’s doubly-dangerous) and crouch on the balls of your feet.

  • Eileen Bolender

    The image of that one man just standing there while the waves engulf him has always haunted me.

  • cole3244

    man has been pissing of mother nature for too long and judgement time is on its way, mother nature never loses.

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