A Japanese friend of a friend was on the beach in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit. This is her emailed description of what happened.
Dear Friends and all,
First of all, thank you so much for your concern about my safety. I thought to share the experience with you all what was really like to be hit by tsunami wave in Sri Lanka.
Luckily, I was on the west coast of Sri Lanka, so the damage was not as bad as east coast.
It was about 9:30am on 26th, I was sitting on the beach chair on the beach. I realized that all of sudden all the waves are coming towards to the shore closer and closer (there was not really big wave splash). I first thought maybe that happens sometimes in this region since it was a full moon day, so I continued to sit back and relax. But then, the waves kept coming to where I was sitting and all of sudden, waves flush down all the heavy beach chairs and everything just like styrofoam in the water, then I finally dashed off to the inland.
I first escaped to the beach cottage that is built on the 1M high above the ground, but then water level kept rising, so I had to again evacuate someplace higher. Power and speed of the tidal wave was so strong, and plus all the furniture is flowing around everywhere it was very hard and dangerous to walk in the water and that time the water level was high up to above my waist.
I climbed up to another higher space, but the water level kept rising with rushing speed. My entire body was shaking badly and I was too scared to move anywhere else (that time water level was up to my chest), we all had to hang really tight on the wall so we won't get swept away with waves, then one strong German girl helped me to move to another area where there is stairs to the second floor of the hotel. Luckily the hotel we were staying was 3-story high, so I could finally get out of the water.
That was the first wave which was nothing compare to the 2nd and 3rd waves.
After the 1st wave, all the water went back to the ocean, and all the water went way far back to the sea (about 1KM?), which was kinda amazing that we could see the bottom of the ocean otherwise we would never have been able to see. But the peace didn't last too long and 2nd wave hit. By that time, I gathered some of the luggage from our beach cottage which was totally damaged, and went up to the rooftop of the hotel, so no more swimming.
3rd wave was the biggest and ground floor of the hotel (about 3M high) was totally under the water. And of course our beach cottage was invisible sunk in the ocean. I was lucky to stay in the hotel with high stories, we were looking down the ground from the rooftop, but was not sure how high the water would continue to rise and was very afraid that the entire building would collapse.
After the 3rd wave attack stopped, we escaped from the hotel and walked about 20min., where water was up to my waist level all the way to finally reach the area where there was no water on the ground.
We are to evacuate to the nearest temple. Most of the people who escaped had nothing but their bathing suit or clothes. They took us to the shelter (some famous architect's garden house) and had to spend a night on the hard floor that night. But thanks to the local Sri Lankans hospitality, they provided us enough food and clothes.
The worst part is that we had no absolute information of what is going on. It was too dangerous to go back to the hotel to get our luggage (if it was not swept away with the water), and only calls we could make was the local calls to the embassy. Japanese embassy contacted to our families in Japan, so it was not too long before my family was relieved to hear that their daughter is alive!
After contacting to the each embassy (mostly hotel guests were Europeans), some left for Colombo the next day to fly back out to their home countries, some had to stay another night because of no transportation. American and German embassy were very fast to take action and send the transportation to the shelter... Japanese the worst!
I left for the southern part of Sri Lanka (that was my original plan), where the tsunami wave hit hardest. All the houses about 500m inland from the sea were almost completely gone or destroyed. It was so sad and people were devastated. People were walking and looking around all day to collect pieces of their home belonging on the street and on the beach. Epidemic is about to happen, so I left Sri Lanka next day.
Only injury I had was small cut on my foot since I had to walk barefoot in the water where broken pieces of bricks and glasses are at the bottom. I think I am really lucky to be alive because I was supposed to leave for south of Sri Lanka 3 hours later of tsunami attack, taking the beach road.
It might be hard to imagine for you what was REALLY like, but as you see on the TV, the situation in countries where tsunami hit was just like that, and even though I didn't even get injured, I felt so sad and upset as I drove by all the devastated areas along the coast.
I think I need another vacation soon.