Tsunami series reveals the emotional stories

Monday:Tsunami: Impact; (Channel 5, 9pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Sunday, 22nd August 2021, 5:00 pm

Hollywood can be brilliant at disaster dramas, pulling out the CGI big guns for breathtaking action scenes which place humanity in the worst possible peril, while the trying circumstances forge heroes and heroines from all walks of life.

Of course, with a movie, when the credits roll, we stand up, walk away and get on with our lives.

As the warnings about climate change and the damage humans are inflicting on the planet ring more loudly in our ears, every now and then, Mother Nature throws up a startling reminder that while life can mirror art, it’s altogether more terrifying when disasters happen for real.

Water, particularly, can be a hugely destructive force. Anyone watching the floods in China, where around a year’s worth of rain fell in a single day, knows it’s not something to be taken lightly. It was also behind one of the world’s worst natural disasters, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which hit Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and beyond.

Raskha Dave and Dr Xand van Tulleken present this harrowing documentary, stripped over three nights, that offers a blow-by-blow account of the lead up to and aftermath of the event that killed more than 250,000 people.

They begin 12 hours before the disaster, as holidaymakers across Asia enjoyed their Christmas holiday in the sun. However, just before 8am on 26th December, deep below the Indian Ocean, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck, with Banda Aceh on the Indonesian coast among the first places to experience the shockwave.

Then, the rupturing tectonic plates lifted a staggering 30 trillion litres of water by 40 feet, and sent it barreling toward Indonesia and Thailand at an unstoppable 500 mph. Cameraman Dendy Montogomery, who was in Banda Aceh, shares the footage he shot, while British tourists in Thailand recount their survival stories.

The second episode picks up the story 90 minutes after the earthquake struck, and learns how people in Thailand managed to escape the first deadly wave, only to face a second.

It also explores the global media response to the unfolding catastrophe, as Associated Press newsman Sandy McIntyre describes how news gathering was changed forever by the tsunami.

The third and final edition explores the fall out eight hours after the earthquake, as people all over the world began the desperate search for loved ones, while newlywed news reporter Katie Razzall, whose hotel was protected by nearby rocky headland, started sending reports about the horrifying aftermath she was witnessing.

While Xand explores the emotional stories of people caught up in the tsunami, Raksha takes a scientific view of the event, visiting Europe’s largest tsunami simulator to find out why a second wave is more deadly than the first.

She also travels to St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall to see evidence for herself of a British tsunami that happened in 1755, and compares the 2004 Asian disaster with the tsunami caused by the volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883.

Finally, Raksha reveals why seawalls are useless against tsunami waves, and finds out how satellites were used to get help to the right places.

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