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Tsunami Scare by Erica Portelli

Erica Portelli is a Year 11 student sailing around south-east Asia on a yacht with her family. When she has internet access she uses Moodle to complete her school work and contacts her teachers via email. Recently whilst on the yacht she experienced a tsunami scare!

You can read about her experience below.

The Tsunami Scare

Even now, looking back, I can scarcely believe what happened. I was woken by voices and gleaming light spilling from the next room. It was black outside. Why were my parents awake at this time? It surely had to be midnight or the early hours of the morning. I listened in to their chatter as I lay there, eyes closed, questioning what was going on. They spoke in hurried, unusual voices, ‘I’m getting the site up now.’ ‘It says that there was a tsunami off the coast of Sulawesi.’ A dreadful sensation washed over me, and I felt my body go tense, as though paralysed on my bed at the sound of that word, ‘tsunami’. I kept listening. My stomach turned, and my brain went to all possible scenarios as I lay there. ‘What do we do?’ my dad asked, ‘do we close all the hatches and barricade ourselves into the boat? Or do we get off the boat?’

I got out of bed, no longer tired but now alert, stomach still churning, and walked the couple of steps down the very thin walkway that leads to the main inside area of the boat. Both my parents looked rather pale in the face. My dad said a very gingerly hello to me as I sat down next to my mum, on the couch, who was looking at something on the iPad. ‘What is it? What’s happened?’ I asked, hesitant to know the answer.

‘We got an alarm on the phones telling us that there had been and earthquake off Sulawesi and a potential tsunami warning’ my mum explained nervously. I peered at the bright screen and it looked quite close by. We all sat there in still silence contemplating what to do. ‘Well I think we should just get off the boat and run up the nearest hill, I think there is one quite close’ said my mum.

I went to my room and quickly put on some appropriate clothes. I grabbed the red grab-bag, containing our passports and other documents, out of the small compartment at the end of my bed and we all hopped in the dingy. It was a rather still, sparkly cool night, cool as it gets in Indonesia, and no one seemed to be on the beach. Dad got the engine rearing to go and we sped off, hearts racing, to the beach. The tide was out and so it was rather shallow. Everyone was in a panic as we all jumped out of the boat into the calf deep water and raced the dingy up the beach.

There was a small village at the edge of the beach where we left the dingy. It had about a dozen small handmade huts and rocky dirt paths crossing through it. The air smelt like cows and damp earth. It was eerily quiet as we ran. No dog barked, chickens clucked, or cows moaned it was just plain silence except for the soft splash of the ocean against the shore. My heart was in my throat and all I could hear was the sound of heavy breathing and footsteps. As we passed through the village my dad said, ‘Why is no one awake? Should we wake them up?’ We were not sure what was going on, so we kept running.

We ran down a wide dirt track that led out of the village and to the main road, in the rough direction of a hill. At the end we saw a small shop with three men and a lady sitting outside. We said a strange hello to them and then asked them if there was a tsunami siren.

They were a little drunk and had a very minimal amount of English, but it seemed that there was no siren there. The people became curious when we said tsunami and their faces had questioning expressions. We then showed them the site on line and asked if there was a tsunami coming. One of the men read the site and told us with great relief there was NO tsunami, “tidak tsunami”.

I immediately felt the tension around my parents disappear. We all took a big sigh of relief and said thank you to the people. It was extremely relieving to look up at the crisp clear starry night as we walked. There was no stress and only relief in the air as we softly tottered to the beach. It was definitely a vivid situation that I will never forget.

Erica Portelli
Year 11