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Tsunami tragedy: Your e-mails

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Tens of thousands of people have been killed and left homeless across Asia.

In southern Thailand, paradise turned into a nightmare. Hear a tsunami survivor's story.

ITN's John Irvine was on vacation in Sri Lanka when the tsunamis hit

The relationship between earthquakes and tsunamis.
Sri Lanka
Disasters and Accidents

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Here are a selection of eyewitness accounts from people who e-mailed us with their experiences of the devastation. Please note our message boards are now closed.

I was on holiday near Phuket on Koh Surin. It was my third visit there and everything seemed totally normal. I went kayaking in the morning and reached the shore before the wave struck but was still washed away by the wave. I grabbed the kayak, which was wedged between two trees. I managed to climb off and walked up a nearby hill. It was so devastating to watch. Charavee Bunyasiri Deer, Bangkok

We were out at sea in a 25-foot longtail boat which was going from the mainland to a secluded island when we saw the tsunami. We were about 1km (half a mile) from shore when the boat driver very quickly headed for a nearby bay. We had enough time to talk and had a solid plan for when we did hit the beach. It was a very close call and we made it to shore with only about 10 seconds to spare and headed to higher ground. It was a very surreal experience but I am thankful to say I have nothing more to show for it than just a few scratches. Jason and Lisa Bagby, Los Angeles, California

I was staying at Ao Nang in Thailand and on Sunday went on a day trip to some islands. My girlfriend was sunbathing and I was snorkeling around the first island when the water turned brown. It was a struggle to reach the beach but I eventually landed in some mangrove bushes. We were very lucky. I tried to administer first aid to several victims but unfortunately they died in front of me.
Daniel Novak, Prague, Czech Republic

I was about to take a boat ride with my wife and had left my eight-year-old son in the pool adjacent to the sea when I suddenly felt the seawater rising. We ran towards the hotel and yelled to my son to get out of the pool. In a flash I lifted him up and ran towards the staircase. The wave hit us but still I managed to get to the first floor. My wife had managed to climb the diving board in the swimming pool and when the water started rising she floated up and got hold of a tree and was clinging to it for dear life. Suddenly the next wave came. It was more intense and it was a nerve-wrecking scene as we shouted to her to hold on tightly. She was shouting back that the tree might collapse. Anyhow, the water started receding and we rescued her and got, leaving all our belongings other than our Indian passports.
Basab Bagchi, Colombo, Sri Lanka

I was at the Selaka Shopping Complex at Galle. There was a great hissing sound from the sea and the sea seemed to be caving in. Within seconds, a great wave came rushing in to the shore, destroying everything and sweeping away everybody who was in the way. Everyone vanished in a second. The whole town was destroyed, along with people at the bus stand and vehicles on the road within few seconds. It is like a dream. I have never seen anything like it.
Deepa, Galle, Sri Lanka

In the morning it felt like someone was shaking the bed. When we went out, all sorts of people were running around with their TVs etc. Some people were so despondent they blocked a road we were traveling on and demanded money and aid from the government. Five thousand fishermen were washed away. We saw a picture in the newspaper of the beach we were sitting on two days before and the place was submerged. I feel sorry for the fishermen. The people affected were the poorest of the poor.
James, Newark, California

I was there when the thing happened. I was on my way back to Kuala Lumpur from Penang and suddenly I saw a huge wave and I wanted to take a picture so I opened my window and I heard people screaming asking for help. We stopped our car and I saw all of them were gone. The thing happened very quickly. But I thank God that we are safe and I will try to give help to their relatives who are still alive. My sister and I will never forget this holiday.
Eva, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Woke up at 6:56 am, then went outside to smoke. All of a sudden I felt this huge movement and the next thing you know you see waves maybe 10 feet high. By that time the water had broken the windows downstairs and was rushing through the streets. Screams for help echoed through the area. People were crying, trying to survive as cars were swept from their parking spaces and buildings collapsed. I got to the door just as a huge wave struck again. The walls buckled as water filled the room in a few seconds. It was like slow motion with my cousins flying into the air, blown by the force of the water. We saw a fishing boat floating into the street and grasped a pillar and held on for our lives. My cousin went to check on my aunt and she was dangling from the shower pole where she had bathing. When the next wave came she got caught underneath it. I haven't seen her today and I believe she has drowned. When it was over I was so sad I cried. But I am grateful I am living and have my family to live with.
Ronaldo, Sri Lanka

I went to Pondicherry, on the coast, with my wife and two sons for the weekend. I was playing in the sea with my sons when we first noticed the water coming in higher than usual. I wasn't alarmed as the sea was so calm that day. As the seconds passed, we saw the waves picking up momentum. By that time, my boys and I were walking back. When I turned and saw the waves gaining speed and height, I knew there was something wrong. I just screamed at both my sons to run. We saw another couple by the beach taking photographs and they were much slower in reacting. As we ran into the dining area of the resort the water had climbed to a height of 8-10 feet and was coming on like a wall. I shouted at the restaurant manager that the sea was coming in and ran to the first floor. From there, I saw the sea crash into the restaurant. I ran to our room and pulled my wife out. Just then we saw the water had come around the resort and we were surrounded. Just as I was expecting the water to crash into the first floor, the water started to subside. By that time, a lot of people at the resort had come to the lobby, some even without their clothes on, thinking that it was the end. There was a tourist who passed a remark that he was not told that this kind of thing happens in India.
Karthik, Chennai, India

We were holidaying at Eden Resort at Beruwala, which is the beach adjoining Bentota. We'd just finished breakfast and stepped out for a walk when we noticed the pool was filled with water from the ocean. We heard there had been a wave and some water had come up to the pool. No one took it seriously and all the hotel guests were out by the sea when suddenly we heard someone telling us to run. We saw a big wave coming towards us. We ran towards the hotel but the wave came up only till knee height or so. Then came the third wave. My husband and I didn't have the time to run back to the hotel so we ran to a cabana-type structure and held on to one of the pillars. The water just came, and within minutes the water was over our heads. Strangely enough we didn't panic but just focused on holding tight knowing that our lives depended on it. The waves went up to the first floor of the hotel and smashed glass of the ground floor rooms as well as caused destruction to the hotel dining rooms, kitchen etc. We've been very lucky but it is heartbreaking that this disaster happened.
Sonam Kalra, New Delhi, India

I was sunbathing with my girlfriend on the beach in Phuket when suddenly I heard an unbelievably loud roar, it sounded like I was standing next to an airplane as it took off. I looked up and found a 20-foot high wall of water coming at me -- it looked like a scene from the Ten Commandments. My girlfriend and I just got up and started running for our lives. The water caught up to us and briefly pulled us under before we surfaced and somehow managed to hold onto a utility pole. Finally the water subsided and we were able to make it uphill to safety. We saw at least 25 bodies float by. Next year I am going to Florida.
Vijay Patel, Phuket, Thailand

We were woken by the tremors at 6:45 am, then around 9:25 am my son noticed the tide at our resort -- Kurumba in the Maldives, just a few minutes from the capital Male -- rising quickly. I tried to pull in some chairs but quickly realized it was a lost cause. I ran in the bungalow and put towels against the door as the ocean engulfed us. We were very lucky. Although the resort suffered property damage I don't think anyone was killed. Given that we are at sea level the water went all the way over the island. We were lucky because a few minutes later a big group of us would have been out at sea for a trip to two islands. Our island didn't suffer as extensive damage as others around us. God help all those that have suffered.
Evelyn, Evergreen, Colorado

I was in my hotel apartment in Thailand when I heard the waves crashing much louder then usual. I look out the window to see dark muddy water washing up everything in its path. I was even shocked at finding a three-foot shark washed up in the swimming pool there. I fled back to Australia yesterday. But unfortunately 26,000 others weren't as lucky. My thoughts go out to them.
Ed, Melbourne, Australia

My wife and I were scuba diving, about 20 meters down, off the shore of Sri Lanka when the first wave hit. All of a sudden the current became unbelievable. Everyone held on to coral or whatever they could to prevent themselves from being swept away. As we surfaced, the boat, which had been tied to a buoy was still intact. We began to return to the dive center when we looked and realized the beach had simply disappeared. We could see the hotels in a shambles (some of them collapsing) and tons of debris in the water. We headed to the dive center and then we saw another wave heading for us. We ran for our lives. We were some of the lucky ones. Warren and Julie Lavender, Colombo, Sri Lanka

I am a dive instructor who was working on Phi Phi island when the tsunami struck. I was on a speed boat trip when the waves hit. After the first dive, which was unusually strong current, we heard a report that something had gone terribly wrong at Patong Beach, Phuket. When we came back we saw lots of shoes in the water and lots of rubbish. When we came into Tonsai Bay (southern beach), all the diving boats were still. Everyone was just waiting for a second wave to hit. We moved to a larger boat, put on out BCDs and just waited for the second wave but it never came. On Tonsai Beach, we saw all the demolition; it was horrible. At 6 o clock the following morning we went down from where we had taken shelter up high and saw the whole picture. It was a disaster. All houses were gone and there were bodies everywhere along the streets. I am now back in Bangkok. Rickard Eriksson, Sweden

Everyone started to run to the window and what we saw filled me with fear. The sea which used to be clear blue was like mud water and it was as if it was boiling up and gaint waves were coimng on to the land. Everyone started to cry there was panic and fear on their faces. We didnt know what to do, then somebody started to instruct us to go downstairs to evacuate the building. I didn't know how I got out, how I started to run, how I got home. Sarah, Male, Maldives

We outran a 15 ft. wall of water 300 yards from the beach... I don't know how we did it. It was very scary ... we spent last night in the jungle on one of the highest points on the Island, swatting mosquito's and trying to calm our fears, which we have not. The Thai people have been very generous and we feel very lucky, considering many others lost everything. Jamie, Viv, Caitlin and Michaela, Phi Phi, Thailand

My father, my mother, our driver and I were on our way to Kataragama, where there is a famous shrine. When we got to Payagala, next to the sea, we were stopped. My father and the driver got out of the car and went near the beach. Suddenly there was a big muddy wave coming towards us. The driver got in the car but my father didn't take the wave seriously and was caught up in it. I saw him get washed away, as the three of us inside the car got drifted towards a nearby canal. The car went circling through the current and slowly filled with water. It was hit by couple of trees that shattered the glasses. Then it came to a stop so I got out of the car through the window. Everyone was expressionless as they searched for loved ones who were with them seconds ago. I went near the canal again and saw a man helping my father who was looking exhausted, after fighting the waves, to come to safety. I have never heard or experienced such a thing before. I will never forget the huge wave as tall as a palm tree coming right towards us. Vindya Gunawardena, Colombo, Sri Lanka

I went for breakfast by the beach in Surin, Phuket, Thailand. I felt my chair shaking at 8.15 a.m. and after a while realized it was an earthquake. At about 10 a.m., I was sending emails in Kamala when suddenly the water level in the small river nearby rose dramatically. Then a car with a smashed windshield floated by. As I left the Internet place the water had reached the street. There was general panic. I drove home and decided the best bet was to stay there, further away from the beach. Friends started to call me about a massive tsunami in Phuket. Electricity was cut. After a few hours I went to see the devastation in Kamala. It was like the aftermath of a bomb, a total mess, with fatalities. I saw a dead boy, aged about four, being carried away by his father. It was terrible. There is devastation everywhere near the beach area. The human suffering and economic cost of this catastrophe is difficult to comprehend. Joni Makivirta, Kamala, Thailand

I did not feel the aftershock but just before 1.30 p.m. local time I stood up to look at the sea and was stunned to see a huge whirlpool in front of my apartment. To my right, I could see the tsunami heading on towards the northeast corner of Penang. As the waves approached the shallows, it was possible to see them rise in height and crash onto the shoreline. It looked like a giant washing machine in front of my apartment. We were lucky as we were away from the beach and up the hill behind. There was no warning. Reuben Walters, Penang, Malaysia

My parents live in Chennai and at about 6.40 a.m. my mum, who was on the phone, felt the chair shaking. She immediately rushed out of the house and saw chaos all around. My father had gone for his morning walk and came back just in time. My friend happened to have been by the beach around 8 a.m. and felt that the water level was higher than ever and it was by luck that he reached his home before the tsunami hit the beach. Had he been there for another half hour or so, he would have been washed away. The entire Marina Beach resembles a graveyard, strewn with debris, silt and fish. Chennai and the entire East Coast seem to resemble a morgue. I pray for the safety of the people and Godspeed for all efforts. Venkat, Chennai, India

My best friend and her family are vacationing in Thailand on Koh Khao Island in Thailand. I received a telephone message from her -- finally -- yesterday morning saying they were all OK, that there tsunami and they ran to the mountains. She said things are really bad there right now. They're camping atop a mountain in a small camp, sleeping on the ground. Lina Krickemeyer, Langley, British Columbia

I was in the office yesterday morning at about 8.30 when police banged on the door telling me to vacate the building because the waves were so high near Colombo (Wellawatte, Bambalapiiy and Kolpity areas). I closed down every thing and rushed out. Dushan, Colombo, Sri Lanka

The following link may be helpful for readers with relatives in Phuket Thailand. link Sasithorn, Thailand

My wife is holidaying in Phuket, staying at the Kabina Beach Hotel (now destroyed) when the first wave hit. She was in her room and the whole room was filled with water -- she almost drowned. She then ran to the hotel lobby just before a second wave hit. She managed to climb to the top of a 20-meter tree with the help of a security guard. Whoever that man was, I thank you for saving her life. She is now in hospital, waiting for minor surgery on her leg. I'm so glad that she survived, I can't wait to get her back. Peter Lillvik, Sanya, China

My son informs me from Matara, Sri Lanka, that there was a great hissing sound from the sea around 10 a.m. and the sea seemed to be caving in. Within seconds, a great wave came rushing in to the shore, destroying everything that was lying in the way, and sweeping away everybody who was in the way. Yusry Al Ayad, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

My brother works in a hotel on a beach. When the tsunami hit, he was near the swimming pool when he saw a 40-foot wave coming towards him. He pulled four kids out of the pool and ran towards the hotel. Within 10 seconds a strong wave smacked his back. He was able to get to safety but a woman died in his arms as he was trying to rescue her. Asheerwadh, Colombo, Sri Lanka

I witnessed the most horrible scene in my life: people running for their lives, dead bodies on the road, mothers crying. I've never seen anything like this in my life. Entire fishing villages have been wiped out, huge cars floating. The bodies of children no older than seven are lying on the beach. Abhishek, Chennai, India

I am on an island near Krabi in Thailand, searching for friends who were on Langkawi Island in Malaysia. Two tsunamis hit here yesterday morning. The first was small -- rumored to be five meters. I saw it coming and watched as it crashed over the sea wall. When the second, larger tsunami (10-15 meters) was spotted, we all ran up to higher ground. Most of the boats here were destroyed so the rescue effort is still continuing. Rebecca Ebels, Nagasaki, Japan

Two friends and I decided to go for a Sunday buffet at a hotel on the coastal area. As we arrived a security guard warned us about a small tidal wave approaching, which we thought was a joke at first. But it was no joke. I have never seen anything like this in my life. We ran towards the hotel. I could see the water coming behind, chasing me. It hit us like a speeding train. We escaped to the second level of the hotel. All I could see was flooded water everywhere. Tuan, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Our Sri Lankan worker reported to work this morning looking distraught. When asked if his family back in Sri Lanka were OK, holding back his tears, he answered that two members of his family, including a nine-year-old boy, are missing, their home swept away. His mother and sister are now sheltered in a mosque. We join him in praying for the safety of his missing relatives and other missing people as well. Larry, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

I live in a beachfront apartment. At about 9 a.m. I was woken up by the tremors as my bed, lights and aquarium were all shaking. Then at around 1.30 p.m., the waves started coming in. It just came without any warning and hit cars parked at the roadside. Eric Fong, Penang, Malaysia

I live close to the beach and yesterday at about 8 a.m. the whole area was shaking and all I could hear was screaming. Then everyone vanished in a second when out of nowhere a wave appeared. Ranil Ariyarathna, Colombo, Sri Lanka

At about 11.30 a.m. we felt a strange phenomenon as water rose and fell. Within seconds, the capital of Victoria was flooded. Debra, Victoria, Seychelles

My uncle amazingly survived the tidal wave during his usual morning walk. He just grabbed a lamppost and he found himself a flow of sea water up to his waist pushing him with maximum pressure. Then the water sucked back into the sea and when it went back he was able to see the sand. At this time he left the lamppost and ran towards the town. Hariharan, Pondicherry, India

People here seem bewildered by the enormity of what has happened to their country. Everywhere you go, small crowds are huddled around radios and TV sets silently absorbing the news, blank faced, as if unable to comprehend what they are seeing and hearing. The devastation might be limited to coastal areas but the sense of shock and loss is universal. It is a tragedy that has united Sri Lanka both in grief and also in determination to do everything possible to help those who have and are suffering. In Hindu and Buddhist temples, mosques and churches, prayers are being offered for the dead and injured. Across the land, collections are being taken for those who have lost everything, vans with PA systems driving around calling on people to give what they can. Even in the poorest and most remote areas, people flock to the roadside to hand over money, clothes, water bottles or bags of rice and lentils. There is a popular buddhist saying in sri lanka, life is no more than a dew drop balancing on the end of a blade of grass. The events of December 26 have shown just how precarious that balance can be. Paul Sussman, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Everyone in my office is in complete shock. The roads in Colombo are eerily quiet and most people are just glued to the news. No one had any warning of what was about to occur. Most of my friends had gone down south for a holiday. Many people had horror stories of how they cheated death by clinging on to trees or hiding within temples. How we are to recover from this is just beyond me right now. Anisha, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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