[61] Koh Muk – On Islands & Tsunami’s

The restlessness in his voice makes me worry. Why are you not answering? Where are you? The tsunami in Java, Indonesia, not too far away makes me restless.

I watch up to the sky, the full moon looks smoking surrounded by the shimmering clouds. The ocean baths peaceful in the silver moonlight. There is silence. A lost melody, some words. There is peace on the island. On this island.

I cannot imagine how less than 2,000 kilometres south the situation must be the absolute opposite. Chaos. Fear. Pain. Mourning. Looking forlife, finding dead. No difference anymore between day and night, sunlight or moonlight. The day continues where already over 200 hundreds lives were taken past night.

A volcano erupted, the ocean reacted. The tsunami entered the land, silencing promptly the festival at its shore. The bassist of the band did not survived the wave crashing the stage; nor did hundreds of others, while hundreds get injured. The number of both groups increased the entire day, and probably it will increase during the night.

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I watch the island I am at, figuring out how peaceful it can be and what they should do if this would happen here. The girl I’m sharing the room with are not worried at all. ‘There is a tsunami alert and there are signs all over the island where to go to in case of a tsunami. A tsunami evacuation zone.’ The zone must be up the hill, as much land inwards as possible. However, I’ve walked through the island many times today and the signs are not leading anywhere, except for in the opposite direction of one another.

Last year I was on an island as big as the one I am staying now when an earthquake in the ocean in front of Mexico provoked a tsunami alarm. The waves of the tsunami would come to our way as well.

All at a sudden the music was silenced; the doors of the bars and restaurants were closed. We were pushed on the streets. There was chaos. People did not know where to go to, they only knew to leave.

Since the island was so small, I do not even remember if there even were signs towards a tsunami evacuation zone. Probably there were, as I would find out later on, along the coast of Peru, Ecuador and Chile.

However, what I do know is that there was no dedicated tsunami evacuation zone. In that sense, that there was no safehouse to go to. Not a single spot on the island would provide a safe zone to shelter. There were no mountains as on this island, nor tall buildings, except for one, a newly build hostel of 3 floors high. The roof would provide shelter. It was even made of concrete. Besides that, there was nowhere to go to.

So, I stayed on the street, watching how anybody else was running around, looking for this safe place. The boats where not going anywhere. The people neither. If the tsunami would really arrive, we would be stuck.

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An island must be the worse place to be when a tsunami hit the coast. On the mainland, people could go as far as possible land inwards. On an island you would be stuck. The boats would not go out. The streets would become a labyrinth without an exit.

When you experienced this once, you become very sceptical when you hear people telling to adapt to climate change, rather than to try to prevent it. How to adapt to a rising sea level which would make tsunamis likely to increase in height and possibility to turn land inwards, hence increasing their devastating effects?

Climate change adaptation is a whole other story on islands, as I will tell about in next blog.

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