The most wave-rich area on earth just lived up to its other reputation as among the most seismically active. On Monday, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake shook the Mentawai islands 175 miles south of Padang and sent a tsunami directly at the world’s most rippable left, Macaronis. To find out more than the recycled information we found on CNN and the World Wide Web, we rang a boat captain familiar with the region. He’s been in contact with people on the ground and in the water around the Mentawais since the quake hit, and what follows are excerpts from our conversation Tuesday afternoon.
In the captain’s own words:
“I don’t want to be quoted with my name. We don’t to be seen as trying to publicize ourselves through this tragedy. Also, I can’t vouch for everything I’m going to tell you, because it’s coming from the boat association that the western boats are all a part of down there. I believe it’s accurate, but I don’t want to sit here saying something that turns out not to be true because I don’t have firsthand knowledge.
The boats are all cooperating with each other. People dropped what they were doing and searched for the missing boats, and they picked up the guests from Macaroni resort. We’re now organizing with the government to take people who survey the damage to the most affected areas. The government, NGOs and the relief agencies need transport out there so the natural way is the charter boats.
It’s all so fresh that the story is going to change over time. What we’re hearing now are accounts from a couple of the charter boats that had satellite phones and were able to get word out. But whole village five miles from Macaronis might have been wiped out and we won’t know about it because there are no sat phones to call and ask for help.
There was one boat missing, the Southern Cross, but they’ve been confirmed okay.”
“The guests of the Macaroni resort said that the wave wrapped around the peninsula and came at them from both sides, and they ran to the one big, strong structure that I believe was built specifically for tsunami protection. They ran upstairs and the whole downstairs was flooded and all the ground level buildings were destroyed.
The Freedom III and the Midas were moored next to Macaronis [Note: the Macaroni Resort mandates that boats at Macaronis be tied up next to two moorings that this captain says are too close together, dangerous, and that he’s never liked them] when a wall of whitewater drove the Freedom III into the Midas. There were reports from the captain that there was a fireball, which would indicate gas fumes in the air. The Midas burned; it’s a total loss. The crew jumped overboard and made it to the beach. They claimed to have climbed trees out of fear of another surge or another wave. They waited for an hour or so until they felt safe enough to come down. The Freedom somehow survived and rescued everybody.
One point I want to make is that the Macaronis resort has been messing with us all year long with that buoy thing and trying to chase us away [from surfing there]. But when this came and happened, it was the charter boats that came to Mark [the owner’s] rescue. His guests would still be stranded except for the boats that came and helped him out. Nobody said anything about any of [the tension], because there were people in need.
As far as all the charter boat guests and the resort guests, everyone is accounted for. There are probably some ferals staying with some villagers that got into trouble, but who is to know if they were even there? It’s too early to know…
It seems as though the damage was pretty isolated to the Macaronis area. Most of the other boats didn’t even know it had happened. Our boat didn’t know what happened — we had to tell them. I’ve been on the boat when stuff has happened, sometimes you feel quakes, and sometimes you don’t.”
Please emanate positive thoughts to all those affected. Hug your kids and knock some wood. Consider floating some financial support directly to the relief effort here.