Video Captures Tsunami Hit Street

Survivors save items from their damaged stores, which were damaged by the tsunami disaster two weeks ago at Banda Aceh, on Sumatra island in Indonesia. AP

A videotape shot as a tsunami swept through Indonesia's Aceh province aired for the first time Sunday and showed a roiling torrent of dark brown water engulfing a busy street, picking up cars and minivans and sending people scrambling up the sides of buildings.

The videotape, broadcast by Metro TV — a commercial channel based in Jakarta, was shot by a cameraman named Hasyim who normally photographs weddings. He captured a horrific record of the unfolding Dec. 26 disaster, starting minutes after a giant undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean toppled buildings and including a scene hours later showing a long line of corpses covered with cloth.

More than 104,000 Indonesians died in the catastrophe. The tsunami swept through southern Asia and as far as east Africa, killing more than 150,000 people in total.

The video was given worldwide distribution by Associated Press Television News and can be viewed on many Web sites that carry video news pictures.

The recording starts with people milling on the streets of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, shortly after the magnitude-9.0 quake — the world's biggest in four decades — and climbing onto piles of rubble, unaware that a massive sea surge was heading toward them.

Some buildings had crumpled, with floors lying on top of one another, while others appeared undamaged.

As his videotape showed a building that became a pile of twisted girders, Hasyim told Metro TV that five construction workers were sleeping inside the unfinished structure when it collapsed, probably killing them all.

People standing around or examining the remains of wrecked houses and cracked concrete slabs appeared relatively calm. Motorcycle traffic continued moving through the streets and no emergency sirens were audible.

Then, suddenly — Hasyim said it was between 15 and 20 minutes after the quake — the videotape showed a swift, powerful wall of water engulfing a busy street, rising to at least the second floor of buildings and carrying so much debris and garbage that the water itself was hardly visible.

Large squares of sheet metal, refrigerators, planks of wood and a restaurant's food display case were among the objects swept along in what looked like a river roaring through the town. Several large oil drums bounced up and down along the surface.

"Everybody was screaming 'Water!' Everybody scattered, running toward the grand mosque," said Hasyim, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. He said a friend named Munawar shot some of the footage.

The water knocked vehicles sideways before sweeping them up; an older man sat in the drivers' seat of a blue minivan but managed to clamber onto a balcony when the wave pushed him toward the side of the road and wedged his vehicle against a building.

About six vehicles — including a pickup truck — floated along together. A huge tree moved swiftly along the street, carried by the unstoppable wave.

Hasyim said the waves were even more turbulent elsewhere in the city. As he videotaped from atop a building in a mosque complex, the water beneath him rose to 10 feet deep, almost touching his feet, Hasyim said.

His camera remained steady throughout.

"I remembered God, my family," he said, adding that he knew his relatives were safe in a different part of Sumatra island. "Those are the only things I had in mind. ... I gave myself entirely to God, to my faith. I thought, 'If I die here, I am in God's house,' and I wasn't afraid of anything."

It was impossible to see how many people were caught up by the water but many ran from it, some climbing guardrails on the windows of the mosque. Many made it to the building's roof and gazed down in disbelief as the city was engulfed.
  • Chris Hawke

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