13 Years Since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami: My Wife Will Never Forget

13 years ago, most people didn’t know what a tsunami was. Today we all remember the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26, 2004, leaving more than 230.000 people dead, most of them in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

My wife was 16 years old at the time and one of many helping injured people at Krabi Hospital in Krabi Town. Helicopters flew in wounded from Phi Phi Island, and she remembers hearing ambulance sirens all day and night non-stop. The following days she saw dead bodies in huge refrigerated containers and on the open ground for identification.

“It was a horrible sight; swollen, naked bodies with burn-looking skin laying in strange positions, some with stiff arms raised like they were desperately asking for help the moment they died. And the smell in the air. I will never forget,” my wife said.

Investigators were X-raying teeth, collecting fingerprints and blood samples. Some could be identified by tattoos, scars, and birthmarks. DNA samples were also collected from those who could not be identified. It was a massive job.

Another strong memory that got stuck is when my wife saw a 7-8-year-old foreign girl screaming hysterically at the hospital because she couldn’t find her family members. I can’t imagine how horrible it must have been to be right there, in the middle of the chaos. It must have been such a confusion and shock for everybody around. Did a wave cause all this devastation?

There are so many stories to be told from survivors, relatives of the victims, and people like my wife who offered their help.

Many people are still missing, probably washed out to sea never to be found again. My thoughts are with all those who have lost people they love.

A Burmese girl resting in a hammock in Ban Nam Khem, Thailand.

A young girl resting in a hammock in the small fishing village of Baan Nam Khem north of Khao Lak that lost more than half of its population. Photo credit: Reuters/Damir Sagolj.

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