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Interviews With Tsunami Survivors

Aired December 27, 2004 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's coming again. Stay back. Oh my God.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, they survived the tsunami that killed more than 22,000 people. From Indonesia to Thailand to the southern tip of India, the biggest earthquake in 40 years took place under the Indian Ocean Sunday morning, setting off a massive wall of water that hit Monday morning leaving untold thousands missing, injured and homeless. As the world tries to make sense of this historic disaster, we'll hear amazing survival stories of those who were there when the sea rose up and smashed into Thailand.

And we'll ask experts how tsunamis happen, if there could be aftershocks and if the United States mainland could ever be at risk. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. Special edition of LARRY KING LIVE tonight. You know what we're covering. Joining us in New York is Sam Champion, WABC weatherman and reporter. In Seattle is Dr. Eddie Bernard, director of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. He's past chairman of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. Former director of the National Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu. And Dr. John Anderson, Dr. Anderson is director of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory. He is in Reno. We'll be checking in with our reporter Aneesh Raman in Thailand, as well as Brad Olsen of CNN's Beijing bureau. And Moira Lee will be with us in Bangkok.

Dr. Bernard, what is a tsunami?

DR. EDDIE BERNARD, NOAA: A tsunami is a series of waves that have been produced by a disturbance of the ocean's surface. And several things could create a disturbance of the ocean's surface, such as an underwater earthquake, and underwater landslide, volcanic eruption, or even meteor could hit the ocean and produce a tsunami. Once it's formed it radiates out in all directions. And it propagates very fast in the deep ocean. And as it approaches the shoreline, it becomes slower and waves amplitude in size, wave amplitude goes up in size. And usually the forces of these waves can be anywhere from 20 to 40 miles an hour as it approaches the coastline.

KING: What does the word mean? BERNARD: The word "tsunami" is a Japanese compound word. "Tsu," which means harbor. And "nami," which means wave. And in Japan, that's how they were forewarned that a tsunami was approaching. They would see anomalous waves in the harbor. So that's how the word originated.

KING: Dr. Anderson, they are not predictable. Are they occurring -- they tell me earthquakes are occurring all the time, minor earthquakes everywhere. Are there tsunamis occurring all the time everywhere in the world?

DR. JOHN ANDERSON, NEVADA SEISMOLOGICAL LABORATORY: Good evening, Larry, thank you so much for having me. No, tsunamis are not occurring all the time. Only when a very large earthquake occurs underneath the floor of the ocean.

KING: Therefore, even though there's so much more water on the earth than land, there are more earthquakes than tsunamis?

ANDERSON: Yes. By hundreds of thousands.

KING: So there can't be a tsunami in the middle of the Atlantic?

ANDERSON: Well, there can be large earthquakes in the middle of the Atlantic. And a large earthquake in the middle of the Atlantic, if it happened to displace a lot of water, could generate waves going around to some of the shores of the Atlantic. But that's not a very likely scenario. In fact, in the middle of the Atlantic, the type of faults that you have there are not the kind that generate tsunamis. On the other hand, along the margins of the Caribbean Ocean, there are the same type of faults that one has in Indonesia. And there's the potential for a tsunami to be generated there.

KING: Sam Champion, are they forecastable?

SAM CHAMPION, WABC WEATHERMAN: No, not really. That's one of the difficult things about this is that you're waiting for seismic activity. These waves are different from the waves that we always see that are caused by winds or tidal changes. This has to be something that happens seismically under the ocean surface. Either an earthquake or as we said, a volcano or large landslide that might displace water. They happen on big skates and they happen without any warning. It would take probably an earthquake above a 7.0 is what they look for when they're issuing a watch to say, this is capable of producing a tsunami. This earthquake could produce a wave of water that would move. So they kind of look for a major event to happen. And they really do happen without warning.

KING: Aneesh Raman is with us by video phone. He is in Phuket, Thailand. Where were you Aneesh?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When the earthquake occurred I was in Bangkok, 500 miles north of where we are now. I can tell you, there, buildings literally swayed. I felt it. And even further north in the tourist area of Chengmai, some 950 miles north of where we are, there was structural damage. But here in Phuket, 30 foot waves devouring the coast. This is where the destruction is worst, Larry.

KING: And Brad Olsen, a CNN Beijing cameraman, is with you there in Phuket, Thailand. Where were you, Brad?

BRAD OLSEN, CNN CAMERAMAN: I was in the province of Karabi, just south about two hours' drive. And when the tsunamis struck I was actually up in the jungle with my family. Because I had received a sunburn the day before and we didn't want to go to the beach. We had too much sun. So we were quite lucky.

KING: Now let's check in with Moira Lee, Moira is a tsunami survivor who was on Patong Beach, that's an island resort off Phuket. She is now in Bangkok. Where were you and what happened?

MOIRA LEE, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: I was actually sitting in a coffee shop directly on the water. And we didn't actually know what was going on I guess since they're so unpredictable. But we were having coffee and the woman in the coffee shop said to us, "The water is too high." she kept saying that. I said, "What does that mean?" not a minute later, she screamed "Run," and we all started running and the water came really quickly. We started jogging through the streets trying to get to the mountain. And my friend and I just started running. Every time we turned a corner action we thought we lost -- the water had stopped. But when we'd come to a through street, the water would be there. So we ran for several streets with the water at our heels. Then we got to behind several buildings and streets, we got to the base of the mountain.

It was like a mass exodus out of the city. Thousands of people on scooters and walking and in trucks, just moving really slowly up the mountain. So we eventually got a ride with somebody in their truck and they drove us to the top. But since we were there for the first tidal wave, we were -- since we were right there when it happened, we saw the other two or however many there were hit by the time we were at the top of the mountain.

KING: Did you have any idea what was going on?

LEE: No, we had no idea. And actually, for the first eight hours or so, no one had any idea as we sat on the top of the mountain. We knew that obviously when we got to the top, we could see the waves. We knew that there were tidal waves and we knew there had been an earthquake because a lot of people felt it. I actually didn't feel it. But I did wake up around 8:00 when it happened.

But we didn't really know. We had no idea what was going on. And as soon as people could get out to their families abroad, that's how we were hearing news from people abroad who had heard things. We didn't know what was happening. And then we actually just decided, because a lot of people were going back down the mountain, we didn't know what had happened so we decided to go back down the mountain. We got down there about 4:00. We'd been there since 10:00 in the morning. There was a mass frenzy again to get back up the mountain and we ended up on a different mountain. Because somebody gave us a ride again. And we stayed up there on the side of the road all night. Just waiting. Because we didn't -- there was no -- there were no authorities. We did see a few police officers. People were coming with food and water and blankets. It seemed like they were locals. Local Thai people. Who were wonderful, amazing. Would go back and forth, up and down the mountain, getting people supplies and things. But we didn't ...

KING: Moira stay with us. Dr. Anderson, before you leave us, is this possibly the forerunner of other events?

ANDERSON: Well we can expect that there will be more earthquakes of this size in other locations around the world. In fact, farther to the southeast along the same fault zone, there are some more seismic gaps that are what we might describe as mature. So it would be entirely -- no scientific surprise to have more large earthquakes along the coast -- The southern coast of Sumatra in the next 10 or 20 years. But I would not expect this to be a forerunner of any -- any specific earthquakes in the next few days.

KING: Thank you, Dr. Anderson. Sam Champion and Dr. Bernard will remain with us. We'll be talking with other survivors and other people involved, other reporters as well on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.


KING: By the way, the State Department has established a hotline about family inquiries about American citizens who may have been impacted by the earthquake and the tsunami disaster. If you're in the United States and have a question call 1-888-407-4747. If you're overseas call 1-317-472-2328. Another survivor joins us. From Tonsai (ph) Beach in Krabi, Thailand. He is Sam Nicols. Where were you and what happened, Sam?

SAM NICOLS, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: I was on the beach rock climbing. On Tonsai (ph) Beach. And all of a sudden -- I guess we noticed the tide pull out really quickly but didn't put one and one together with the earthquake, that it was an earthquake and could be a tsunami. And all of a sudden, people started pointing out in the ocean. And you could see a wave of big breakers roll in off the coast. Crashing against the rocks farther out. I had enough time to grab my backpack and run 50 meters along the beach to a bar, stop and take out my camera and begin to take pictures as the waves began to crash over sailboats out in the bay.

I didn't have myself -- I think I was a big unsure how big it was without being able to see it since they were so far out. The waves eventually moved in. By the time I grabbed my bag, I knew I had to run. They had overtaken me. And I was knocked over by two waves pushing me into the bar I was at. I crawled up into the DJ booth overlooking the dance floor and managed to - Luckily, the building had not collapsed. The buildings around me collapsed. But that building didn't collapse. I'd been underwater for two waves. And I was extremely lucky to escape without any injuries.

KING: Sam, why did you stop and take pictures?

NICOLS: I think I thought about that many times. I don't understand why. It was a really stupid thing to do in hindsight. I'm used to seeing large waves, coming from California. When I saw the waves out there, they didn't really look that big. And the water had drawn out so far, they seemed so far away, I couldn't imagine they were going to get there as quickly as they did at the end. It's something that I've mused over in my head how it was. It was a big mistake. But I've never been in a situation like that. I think nobody knew what to expect. And I just consider myself extremely lucky I didn't get injured more than I did.

KING: Sam, were you there as a tourist?

NICOLS: Yes. I'm here living for three months doing rock climbing. And on Tonsai (ph) beach there is a big rock climbing center. And that's one thing I should say, now today, about 90 percent of the tourists have left, but I think 75 percent of the people who are rock climbing have stayed around and have been helpful to the local people, helping them clean up a lot of the debris on the beachside. Pulling apart the buildings that were flattened. There's definitely a lot of great camaraderie between the Thai and the Westerners working towards rebuilding the place that everyone enjoys coming to so much.

KING: Dr. Bernard, could this hit the United States?

BERNARD: Yes, it could. In fact, it has happened in the United States in the past. The most recent disaster that beset our country was in 1964, the Great Alaska Earthquake, which produced a large tsunami in Alaska and the waves propagated all the way down to the west coast. And it continued to attack our coastlines. And actually wound up killing another ten people in Crescent City, California. And two people in Newport, Oregon. So yes, we have had this experience in the past. But not at this magnitude.

KING: Sam, is there any defense, if you had a warning?

NICOLS: Yes, if we would have had -- many people, the Thai people complained that they did not hear a warning from Phuket or from Phi Phi Islands which were hit before us. If we would have had two or three minutes more, even, to just evacuate everyone out. Yes, it could have been real common (ph). The waves here, we were some what shielded from the other islands, the waves only got in about 15 meters. So it wasn't even that far. Maybe 30, 40 in some places. But it wasn't that far to move yourself to get out of the way.

KING: Sam Champion, do you ever remotely think about something like this in New York?

CHAMPION: Well, Larry, these people certainly didn't. And that's one of the things that you can't fault them for being caught off guard, here. They're such a rare occurrence. And most of the people who experience one in their lifetime didn't experience one before it. You'll hear time after time again these stories of the water being sucked out and being able to see the beach. Much farther than you could before. That's a warning sign. It's a sign that this water is piling up offshore and just minutes away from rushing at you. Most people don't know that, though. They haven't faced it before. So when they're looking at this, they're drawn to the coastline. They actually go closer to the coast to say, wow, look at this, the water's out, there's no water or it's lower than it should be.

And they're standing there. And all of a sudden, this wall of water comes at you. And you often don't see it as it's depicted in the movies, like a big rushing wave. It will be a mound of water. And then, as it gets closer to the shoreline, it's almost like that sweeping wall of water does form a wave characteristic just before it breaks the shoreline. So on the horizon, you may see something coming at you. And you're looking at this phenomenal sight that you're never seen before and you're caught completely off guard.

We don't think about it. And to answer your question, we don't think about it much in New York on the East Coast. It's a West Coast phenomenon for us. It happens in Hawaii at least if you took it on average, it would be like once a year in Hawaii. In the '50s and '40s, they had such a problem with them they formed this tsunami warning kind of grid that they put the bowies out in the water and they're able, after they get a report of an earthquake to see if the water has shifted and to be able to sound warnings on the coastline. There is nothing like that on the east coast of India. Even though India's one of the member nations of the global tsunami program. They're more concerned about their other coastline because that's typically where they come from.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with lots more. Don't go away on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE on CNN. Stay with us.


KING: Let's check in with CNN reporter Hugh Riminton, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. What can you tell us, what happened where you are, Hugh?

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in Colombo itself, it didn't take the worst of the impact of the waves. Although there were deaths along this coastline even north of the capital. So during the course of the night around Colombo all the way south, all the way around the southern coast and up again around the east coast of this beautiful tear-drop shaped island of Sri Lanka, there were people, we saw them, we spoke to some of them in these make-shift shelters, a million of them last night were displaced from their homes, their second night out in the open. A lot of them clinging to high ground, simply not trusting going back to their places down near the water. Even if they have places to return to. Because we know on the official assessments, 250,000 people remain homeless in Sri Lanka today.

KING: And where are they?

RIMINTON: For the most part, they're wherever they feel safe. Wherever they can get food. And if they're lucky they might be able to get some water. Those who need it might get some medical care. There's a lot of people in things like churches or temples, in government buildings, local government buildings, just trying to shelter up. In the meantime, there's a wave of people, tourists, trying to get out of the country. We spoke to a number of them with some amazing survival stories. People had been tumbled up in the water.

One couple from Germany emerged remarkably, to their own astonishment, the two of them, this couple, were alive at the end of it. And then discovered they were stark naked. They'd been in their beach gear down at the beach, watched as the waves came in, like so many other people. Just not understanding what the threat was. And then as it engulfed them completely, when they emerged, they were stark naked, in a panic, with lots of other people trying to scramble through jungle to higher ground. And when later on the husband decided it might be safe to try to go back to the hotel to see if they could find some clothes, to see if they could find their passports and so on, they that the found the hotel had completely disappeared. And they made their way to the airport only through the help of Sri Lanka locals who gave them clothes so they could to go to the airport. They had no money, no passports, no tickets. They were trying to find their way out of the country when we spoke to them.

KING: Aneesh Raman, when they get to airports, did any of this harm any airports in Thailand?

RAMAN: Phuket Airport, the international airport here on the island was closed for some time, it was flooded. But the real sense here was just one of complete chaos and uncertainty initially. While I was in Bangkok, I spoke just hours after these waves hit the shores with survivors that literally, the phone calls were chilling. People did not know what to do. This is a land they're not familiar with, this is a language on the island they don't speak. So foreign tourists just didn't know where to go. They knew to go to higher ground. But the threat of more waves was constant. And also, they were making frantic calls to relatives. We got calls from people in London, from people in the U.S., who had gotten calls from people on the island who were at a loss as to what they should do.

As these waters came, the stories of survival. The vast majority of them are simply luck. People grabbing hold of whatever they could by chance, being in front of stairs that they could climb, as other people were simply just washed away. And the other important thing to keep in mind is that these waves come in with immense force, 30 to 50 miles an hour. Over 30 feet high. So that initial destruction is severe. But they are equally troubling as they withdraw. The force with which they grab everything and anything back out to the ocean is beyond imagination. So especially in that situation, elderly, children, people who can't grab hold with enough strength to something to prevent them from being dragged out just have a horrific fate ahead of them. In terms of the initial night, officials told us 600 people at least were thought to be lost at sea. There was hope they could try and get to them. But yesterday, the death toll more than doubled. And the main reason for that was that these bodies began wash ashore.

So here the story really for these tourists, this is one of the most pristine beach areas in Southeast Asia. People come here to get away from everything. And that morning was one of relaxation. People would have been completely at peace. And then in just a matter of moments utter hell began. And people were clinging to their lives. And many of them lucky to be alive. And the scenes they have seen, talking to the people at the hospital here, the psychological impact of having survived this, the human toll is one thing. But the psychological impact of seeing what they saw will take years to come -- to overcome.

KING: Moira Lee, why are you still there?

LEE: Pure luck, I think. We were meant to be on a dive trip, too, that they said nobody survived. I think it's a series of lucky decisions. And the woman in the cafe, she just told us to run and we all started running, just I think if it had been moments later, we wouldn't have -- we went back to the Tong (ph) after, the next morning, and it was just completely washed way.

KING: When are you getting out?

LEE: Well, we're in Bangkok right now and we're going to stay for a few days in and just see what happens. Decide if we want to go back to the States or if we want to travel some more, I think. We're still sort of in shock. It was very surreal. The people we spoke with just amazing survival stories. And just devastating.

KING: We'll have more. We'll take a break, come back, reintroduce all the people assembled on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be covering this, of course, throughout the day and night. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back.

With us in New York is Sam Champion, weatherman and reporter for WABC. In Seattle is Dr. Eddie Bernard, director of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That's NOAA, past chairman of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program and former director of the National Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu.

Survivors include Moira Lee. She was on the Patong Beach of the island resort of Phuket. She is now in Bangkok. Sam Nicols is in Saine Beach (ph) in Krabi, Thailand. He was in a less hard-hit area than Phuket. Our journalists include Aneesh Raman of CNN, reporting at Phuket, Thailand. With him is Brad Olson of CNN Beijing's bureau. He's a cameraman. In Colombo, Sri Lanka, is Hugh Riminton. Others will be joining us as well in the next segments.

Dr. Bernard, is there any chance that this has implications beyond the area where it occurred?

BERNARD: Larry, I'm not quite sure I understand your question. What do you mean?

KING: All right. Could there be like volcanic eruptions can cause weather changes in Chicago, a volcano in Washington. Could this have effects elsewhere? BERNARD: Well, we already know that the tsunami actually propagated around the entire southern ocean. There was recordings of it in New Zealand and even on the continent of Antarctica. So, this particular tsunami was very widespread. It went around the globe, at least in the southern ocean.

And -- but as far as implications for the rest of the planet right now, this event is pretty much concluded, as far as the tsunami goes. What tomorrow holds, what other earthquakes in other parts of the world may happen and what tsunamis may be generated is yet to be seen.

But I did want to correct one misperception that may be out there. And that is, every year, there are about five tsunamis, one of which is destructive. That is, it can cause property damage and loss of life. The other four are measurable by instrumentation. But tsunamis are an uncommon event, but not that uncommon. Five a year is a pretty regular event.

So, in the hundreds of thousands of earthquakes that occur each year, at least five of those produce tsunamis.

KING: Why are earthquakes much more common?

BERNARD: Well, for one thing, the size of the earthquake will determine whether a tsunami is produced or not.

We can probably have micro-tsunamis that are produced by small earthquakes. But we do not have any instrumentation that can measure it.


BERNARD: So, I think it's somewhat of an issue of threshold.

What you're witnessing here in the Indian Ocean is a catastrophic event. Probably the earthquake and a series of underwater landslides combined to make a gigantic tsunami. This is unprecedented in the history of mankind, as far as the devastation it's wrought on the Indian Ocean. So, what we're seeing here is probably one of the largest events that we will witness on planet Earth.

And how often this will happen remains to be seen. The last event that was a basin-wide one was in 1960, where the earthquake was a magnitude 9.5 in Chile. And the waves propagated to Hawaii, where they killed about 66 people. And then they continued to propagate all the way to Japan, where they killed about 200 people.

KING: So, Sam Champion, in essence, all tsunamis are earthquakes?

CHAMPION: Well, they -- I'd say most of them are, or seismic. And what we mean by that, Larry, is, it -- it requires some kind of movement of the earth itself, like a plate shift or a volcanic eruption morally. Then those things -- one of those could also trigger a landslide, which would drop a large shelf off a large piece of land and create a wave in that way as well.

The thing about water is, is that it transfers energy just amazingly. I mean, if you move it -- just think about if you're in the bathtub and you're pounding on the water. That goes all the way to the edge of the tub until it breaks on something. And that's the way it will travel in the ocean as well. That wave will continue.

And we're not talking about a surface wave, remember, nothing like what the winds of a hurricane will create or anything like that. That's if you're actually in the tub and you do like this on the top of the water. That's a surface wave. Think of it as if you put your hand underneath the water in the pool or in the tub and you move your arm underneath the water. That creates a little mound of water on top.

And it's much more powerful. It travels the entire distance of that water until the bottom of the ocean starts to come up to meet it. Then, when you get into shallow water, that energy's moving at such a pace, it has to go someplace. So, it piles up and creates a big wave and then strikes the shoreline.

If you were out in the middle of the Atlantic when this happened, you may not have even noticed this mound of water come up. But, certainly, by the time it reached the shoreline, it was devastating.

KING: We have another survivor joining us at Phuket in Thailand, Phuket. He is Bruce Austin.

What happened to you? What were you doing there, by the way, Bruce?


Well, the first indications we had was vibrations which came through probably around 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning. And then I was in my bed at the time. First, I heard a crashing sound coming through from the front of the building. We were lucky because the hotel we were in had an underground car park, which took a large part of the impact.

But the wave came through on the first floor. I heard a crashing, banging, screaming sound. I rushed out to find -- see people basically bleeding everywhere, broken bones, people thrown into -- out of windows everywhere. We were under about 10 feet of water at the time. And the situation was terrible.

KING: Were you there just as a vacationer, Bruce?

AUSTIN: Yes, I was.

I was -- I was out here with my cousin John (ph). We were out here diving. He was actually at one of the ground-floor bedrooms. And he was almost drowned with several other people. But, luckily, they're safe.

KING: Are you trying to -- are you trying to leave? AUSTIN: We were trying to get on a flight. We're booked out tomorrow. There's a certain amount of chaos still here, but things are relatively well organized. The authorities appear to be controlling the situation as well as it can. But it's very difficult to get flights in, very difficult to get flights out. Things are still -- still pretty -- pretty bad.

KING: Sam Nicols, is this a big tourist time of the year there? Is this summer?

NICOLS: Yes, well, this is definitely the high season, the absolute highest season. Between Christmas and New Year's, I think, is when things max out, as far as the number of tourists who are here. So, yes, and from that side, it couldn't have come at a worse time.

KING: Moira, would you say that the difference between those who lived and those who died was luck?

LEE: I would definitely have to say it was. There was no warning. And, definitely, where you were on the island was sort of just luck, fate, I guess, what happened.

KING: Do we expect, Aneesh, the totals to go up?

RAMAN: We do, Larry. As I said, it more than doubled yesterday. It's likely that something similar will occur today, into tomorrow.

The Thai government really dealing on seemingly infinite levels with this rescue and relief effort. They have two clear demographics, the tourists and they have got the population here. As we have mentioned, this is the peak of the tourist season. Some five million people, Larry, come here annually. And this is really when the majority of them arrive.

They are also, the Thai government, dealing with a local population that was hardest hit in the coastal area. But they're trying as hard as they can to make public efforts to help these tourists. They've given free lodging to anyone in Bangkok that wants it, as they figure out what to do next when they leave this area. They've also set up two major tourist-specific relief centers, one here on the island of Phuket, a sister one in Bangkok.

And they're medevacing out any tourist that has severe injuries to some six Bangkok hospitals set aside just for foreign nationals. At the same time, some international help coming, the U.S. sending three military aircraft, the Japanese helping out as well. And some of these countries where the dead are from, Larry, have begun sending planes to pick up the bodies of their citizens, as well as to take the wounded home.

KING: Dr. Bernard, are there post-tragedy health problems?

BERNARD: Generally speaking, the contaminated water poses a health problem.

The massive amount of cleanup operations, the decomposition of animals, as well as humans, if they're not properly covered up and cared for, these all do pose problems for the local jurisdictions. It's a horrific problem in this particular case because of the widespread damage that was done.

KING: Would you say, don't drink the water?

BERNARD: Absolutely. And, certainly, you need to have some way to purify it, either tablets or boil it or something to -- because that's the most acute problem that is facing these countries as they are cleaning up right now.

KING: We'll be right back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


KING: Joining us in Bangkok, Thailand, is Carol Guarnieri. She's clinic manager of the MedAire Bangkok Clinic. And in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is Marcel Izard. He is a spokesperson for the International Red Cross.

Carol, tell us about the medical team in Bangkok, what it's doing, what you're treating.

CAROL GUARNIERI, MEDAIRE BANGKOK CLINIC: We actually have two teams, Larry. We have one in Bangkok that's actually treating the walking wounded, people that are actually leaving Phuket. They are getting on flights and they're going back to Bangkok.

With their wounds, we have a team of doctors and nurses ready to take care of them. They're mostly treating wounds and fractures. And then we actually have a medical team here in Phuket, where we're working in coordination with the local hospitals. We're providing some direct patient care. And we're also advising and coordinating some of the emergency transport to Bangkok.

KING: What, Carol, is the biggest medical problem?

GUARNIERI: The biggest medical problem we're seeing, actually, a lot of wound infections, a lot of fractures, also a lot of pulmonary edema.

People, when the big waves came, they swallowed a lot of water. We're seeing a lot of lung congestion. A lot of pneumonia, we're seeing.

KING: Have any died?

GUARNIERI: Oh, yes, yes, many. Many people have died already.

KING: Well, there's no way you could have been equipped for this, Carol.

GUARNIERI: Oh, not at all. Nobody saw it coming. People were just playing on the beach. It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, they said. Then, all of a sudden, the water just got swept out. And then a huge tidal wave came. It was totally unexpected. It caught everybody by surprise.

KING: Marcel Izard of the Red Cross, the U.N. emergency relief chief, Jan Egeland, said this could be the costliest natural disaster in world history. Would you comment on that?


The problem is that it's a vast area that has been affected. If you look only at this country, Sri Lanka, more or less, two-thirds of the entire coastline has been severely affected, damaged. Entire villages have been swept away. So, you have to reach those people. You need helicopters. You need ships, because the Roads, most of the roads are cut, especially in the south.

You don't get by land. So, definitely, if you need helicopters, this is very costly.

KING: And how -- who's coordinating? Is the Red Cross coordinating? Is governments? How is it working?

IZARD: The government is taking the lead in Sri Lanka.

Obviously, we are in constant contact with the government, as well as the U.N. agencies. If you look at World Food Program, for instance, they are also here. They have a huge stock of food. So, everybody's doing its best to contribute and to make coordinated and efficient relief efforts.

KING: Brad Olson, our CNN Beijing cameraman, would you say that the workers, the government workers, Red Cross and others that you see are doing a good job?

OLSON: They're doing the very best they can, Larry.

I took a helicopter out to Phi Phi Island yesterday to see how the relief operation was going. They had a hard time getting started, because there was so much damage. No helicopters could land. And all the boats that were being used to transport people had been destroyed or were just not serviceable.

The survivors of the incident organized themselves into rescue squads. And as -- they cleared a landing pad and then the Thai government sent in helicopters and nurses. The people said the nurses and helicopter drivers -- or pilots -- had done a terrific job and had really saved a lot of lives.

KING: Moira Lee, how are they doing from your vantage point?

LEE: I have to agree, they did a great job for us. There was little contact when we were on the mountain. But, once we got to the airport, even though it was mass chaos, there were people around to talk to and to get us to -- actually, the Thai air force took us to Bangkok, along with several hundred people. And they had food and water and were very helpful, had cell phones to call our families and things.

KING: Carol, are a lot of people being flown out?

GUARNIERI: When you say flown out, what do you mean, Larry?

KING: On airplanes.

GUARNIERI: Actually, people...


GUARNIERI: I'm sorry?

KING: No. I mean injured people who require a certain kind of help in a larger area than you have.

GUARNIERI: What we're seeing now, we're -- the hospitals are doing the best they can. They're having a lot of relief coming in now.

Doctors and nurses from all over the country are coming down. The medical community is helping out. People are bringing donations to the hospital. They're actually doing a great job with the whole situation. Everybody's really pitching in. They're working 24 hours. They're doing really the best they can.

KING: Marcel, what about emergency relief? How fast is it? What's the best way for people -- is it best to give money? Is it best, the supplies? What do you need?

IZARD: Well, I think money is the best bet, I guess, because, already in Colombo, for instance, people are coming to our office and have purchased some medical items in the pharmacy. This is, of course, a very nice gesture. But it's not very efficient, because you need a professional who will select the most needed items and sends it to the field.

KING: How are you doing physically, Moira?

LEE: Oh, I'm doing very well. I was very, very lucky. I can't be more lucky, I don't think.

KING: What about psychologically?

LEE: I'm feeling pretty good. I think that it's still very surreal. It's hard to comprehend the magnitude of what happened, especially not knowing anything for so long. And now coming back to Bangkok and talking to more people and talking to survivors and things, it's becoming more of a reality. And it's just -- it's very disturbing.

It was so unexpected and so shocking. But I think it took a long time to just even comprehend what's happened.

KING: Yes.

Dr. Bernard, how far back in history, biblically, can you trace these kind of events?

BERNARD: Oh, my goodness. I think the Japanese history goes back 2,000 years of these destructive waves striking their country. It's happened repeatedly over and over again. And thousands of lives have been lost in the country of Japan. They're the most hit, most hard -- hardest hit of all nations.

And so this has been going on since the beginning of mankind.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.


KING: Bruce Austin, when are you going to go home? Bruce, are you there?

OK, Apparently, we've lost Bruce.

Moira, when are you going home?

LEE: I haven't figured that out yet. We just arrived to Bangkok last night. So, we're going to try to figure out what we're going to -- what our next move is.

KING: It would be understandable if you would like to come home quickly, wouldn't it?


LEE: Yes. Yes. It -- I would definitely love to see my family right now.

KING: Sam, long-range effects of this on the area?

CHAMPION: Well, Larry, long-range effects on this is that now the Indian Ocean is awake, or that entire area is awake to the fact that it's possible.

If you looked at Web sites or information about tsunamis and seismic activity, this area, including the Atlantic, was often thought as kind of, well, behind everyone else. It was a quiet zone and not an area that you worried about too much. The only reason that we have any kind of warning system of buoys and measurements in any place in the Pacific is that it was out of need. These things were happening on a regular basis. They were killing people. They were affecting areas.

And so, places that hadn't had them before never really even thought about putting out a warning or connecting the zone, a way to do it. This area now is awake to the fact that it can happen in their region. And they really do need to address it. They need to think about it now, come up with some funds to put something in to mirror the system that is over in the Pacific now and put it in this zone, so that this will never, ever happen to people again.

KING: Dr. Bernard, do you learn from this?

BERNARD: Yes, we learn a lot.

And I think that most important thing for the viewing audience to recognize is that we should continue to enjoy going to the beaches and enjoying the oceans and all the creature comforts that it provides us. And I think that, as far as a tsunami hazard goes, there's three physical indicators that we should be aware of while we're on the coast. First of all, if you feel an earthquake, like these people felt, that's a natural indicator that a tsunami could be present, so if you feel an earthquake.

A second sign would be the withdrawal of the ocean, as it drains away from the coastline towards the sea. It will rapidly recover. And so that's a natural warning that perhaps a tsunami is on its way. And a third indicator is a loud roar. As a tsunami is approaching the coastline, as you heard from so many of your eyewitness accounts, it sounded like a freight train coming towards the shore.

So, if you feel an earthquake or if you see the ocean receding quickly or if you hear a roar from the ocean, those are three natural indicators that a tsunami could be present. In all those signs, you quickly go inland or you go up a high hill and try to get out of harm's way, just as your survivors talked about.

KING: Sam Champion, we only have about 20 seconds.

The wonders of nature must never cease to amaze the weather forecaster.

CHAMPION: Larry, it's absolutely as a kid and I think why anybody gets into this business, to watch all of this happen. It's absolutely an amazing thing to watch from a distance, certainly.

KING: Thank you all so very much for this very inclusive, I think comprehensive report. We know a lot more this hour than we knew an hour earlier.

And I'll be back in a couple minutes and tell you about tomorrow. Don't go away.


KING: More on one of the great recorded disasters in the history of mankind tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, more throughout the day tomorrow on CNN, and more right now on "NEWSNIGHT," normally hosted by Aaron Brown. But guess who is hosting tonight?

Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Larry.

KING: There he is, known, of course, by the blue shirt and the little tie attached to it. Tucker -- I like the look, Tuck.

CARLSON: Well, thank you. Purple tie given to me by my daughter. Lucky tie.

KING: Go get 'em, Tucker.

CARLSON: Thanks, Larry. I appreciate it.


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