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First-hand account reveals havoc

From Journalist Alan Morison

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PHUKET, Thailand (CNN) -- The beaches of Phuket, Thailand's tourist coast, have been devastated, and the dead are still being counted.

Further up the Andaman Sea coast, in the province of Phang Nga, the death and injury toll is four times as great as on Phuket.

Khao Lak, once a popular destination for dive tourists, is today a devastated mess, where scores of bodies are still being pulled from the rubble.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people are still missing as Thailand attempts to cope as best it can.

"More coming! More coming!'' the woman shouts.

She is running towards us, up the road from the broken concrete landscape of Khao Lak.

Others shout and run.

Within seconds, we are all running. Within minutes, hundreds of people are in a cavalcade of cars, driving away from the devastation.

This is the wave of panic.

Earlier, we had seen the destruction wrought by the first waves, the killer waves, on Sunday.

From a beauty spot viewing platform at the Baan Krating Resort, we looked down as relief workers carried the bodies of 14 Europeans into a grassy spot among the coconut palms below.

Most were wrapped in simple calico, but one man was strung from a pole in his bathing trunks.

Volunteer worker Sompon Lampasee says these are the latest among 200 victims of Sunday's water-wall disaster.

They ran out of coffins yesterday. We had already passed a pickup truck with several bodies in the back.

Just down the road in Khao Lak on Sunday, Sompon told us, there were 20 tourists in a mini bus when the waves hit. All their bodies were found later, still in the mini bus.

Shops, bars gone

Soon afterwards, standing where Khao Lak once stood, we can see why.

For 1.5 km along the beach front and perhaps half a kilometer inland, there is nothing. No holiday guest houses, no dive shops, no bars. Nothing.

Then there is a zone of bars and shops that still stand.

Among the overturned tables, broken glasses and silty debris at the Happy Lagoon Bar, Nipaporn Sornin, 24, daughter of the owner, tells us that the staff and customers escaped about 10am on Sunday because they ran.

Almost as she says this, the woman calls out, "more coming!'' and we again run.

My driver and friend Wanamon Insorm, whose nickname is Bow, sells diving equipment and has come to look for her friends in the dive shops of Khao Lak.

She finds none of them.

Even the revered King of Thailand has been affected personally.

The body of the 21-year-old grandson of King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been brought back for burial in Bangkok.

Khun Poom Jensen, son of Princess Ubolratana, was last seen riding a jet ski off the Khao Lak shores on Sunday morning when the giant waves hit.

At Thap Lamu pier, the main departure point for dives trips to the Similan region, the devastation stretches back almost two kilometers to where a police car sits overturned under a tree.

Concrete fences have been crushed and at the pier, where more than 20 speed boats usually cater to hundreds of tourists each day, there is only driftwood where dive shops and key side restaurants once stood.

What about Myanmar?

After the terrible havoc that has been wreaked on Indonesia, Sir Lanka, and India, the question must now be asked: If Thailand has suffered so much with its 400 km of coast exposed to the killer waves, then what's happening in Myanmar?

The country has an exposed coast that is twice as long -- 800 kilometers in all, stretching upwards along the elephant's neck of a peninsular known as the Isthmus of Kra.

Aid agency officials may have already asked the question, but no answer appears to be forthcoming from the reclusive military government.

Seismologists have said that extra distance could give the energy of Sunday's earthquake extra power.

If this is so, and Thailand has suffered so much, how have the fishing villages and stilt huts along Myanmar's coast fared?

It may be that another soaring increase in the devastation wreaked by the killer waves is yet to be revealed.

Judging by the damage already done, Myanmar's tragedy could even be far greater. It is difficult to contemplate, but who knows what secrets Myanmar holds.

Perhaps a bigger tragedy still lies ahead.

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